Twitter and other social media sites to slide in removing hate speech in 2022, EU evaluation says

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Twitter according to European Union data released Thursday, hateful content took longer to review and less was removed in 2022 than in the previous year. The EU figures were published as part of an annual review of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation of 27 countries.

Twitter was not alone – most of the other tech companies that signed the voluntary code also scored worse. But the numbers could herald trouble for Twitter in complying with the EU’s strict new online rules after owner Elon Musk laid off many of the platform’s 7,500 full-time employees and an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation and other critical tasks.

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

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In comparison, the amount of flagged content Facebook reviewed within 24 hours dropped to 64%, Instagram dropped to 56.9%, and YouTube dropped to 83.3%. TikTok came in at 92%, the only company to improve.

The amount of hate speech Twitter removed after being flagged dropped from 49.8% the year before to 45.4%. TikTok’s takedown rate dropped by a quarter to 60%, while Facebook and Instagram saw only minor drops. Only YouTube’s removal rate rose to 90%.

“It is concerning to see a downward trend in the assessment of reports related to illegal hate speech by social media platforms,” ​​European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova tweeted. “Online hate speech is a scourge of a digital age and platforms must honor their obligations.”

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

Musk has $44 billion acquisition of Twitter last month sparked widespread concern that spreaders of lies and misinformation could flourish on the site. The billionaire Tesla CEOwho has repeatedly expressed his belief that Twitter had become too restrictive, reinstated suspended accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump.

In the middle of next year, Twitter will face more criticism in Europe, when new EU rules to protect the online safety of internet users will apply to the biggest online platforms. Violations can lead to huge fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global turnover.

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French online regulator Arcom said it had received a response from Twitter after the company wrote earlier this week to say it was concerned about the effect the staff departures would have on Twitter’s “ability to provide a safe environment for retain its users”.

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

Tech companies that are signatories to the EU’s Disinformation Code agree to commit to measures to reduce disinformation and report regularly on whether they’re keeping their promises, though there’s little to stop punishment.

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