Twitter and other social media apps fail to remove hate speech, EU review finds

Twitter took longer to review hate content and removed less of it in 2022 than a year earlier, European Union data showed Thursday.

The EU figures were released as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the 27-nation bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation.

Twitter wasn’t alone — most of the other tech companies that signed on to the voluntary code also fared worse. But the figures could portend difficulties for Twitter in complying with tough new EU online rules after owner Elon Musk laid off many of the platform’s 7,500 full-time staff and countless subcontractors. handlers responsible for content moderation and other critical tasks.

The EU report, carried out over six weeks in the spring, found that Twitter assessed just over half of notifications received for illegal hate speech within 24 hours, up from 82% in 2021.

By comparison, the amount of reported material Facebook reviewed within 24 hours fell to 64%, Instagram slipped to 56.9% and YouTube dropped to 83.3%. TikTok came in at 92%, the only company to improve.

The amount of hate speech removed by Twitter after it was flagged rose to 45.4% from 49.8% the previous year. TikTok’s deletion rate fell by a quarter to 60%, while Facebook and Instagram saw only minor declines. Only YouTube’s takedown rate increased, reaching 90%.

“It is worrying to see a downward trend in the review of notifications related to illegal hate speech by social media platforms,” ​​tweeted European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova. “Hate speech online is a scourge of the digital age and platforms must live up to their commitments.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Emails addressed to several members of the company’s European communications team came back as undeliverable.

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter last month sparked widespread concern that purveyors of lies and misinformation would be allowed to thrive on the site. Tesla’s billionaire CEO, who has often expressed his belief that Twitter has become too restrictive, has reinstated suspended accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump.

Twitter will face greater scrutiny in Europe by the middle of next year, when new European rules aimed at protecting internet users’ online safety begin to apply to the biggest online platforms. Violations could result in huge fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual worldwide revenue.

French online regulator Arcom said it received a response from Twitter after writing to the company earlier this week expressing concern about the effect the staff departures would have on Twitter’s “ability to maintain a safe environment for its users”.

Arcom has also asked the company to confirm that it can meet its “legal obligations” in the fight against hate speech online and that it is committed to implementing the new European rules online. Arcom said it received a response from Twitter and will “investigate their response,” without giving further details.

Tech companies that have signed up to the EU Disinformation Code agree to commit to taking steps to reduce disinformation and file regular reports on whether they are delivering on their promises, though there is little penalties.

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