The European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, made a video statement on the EU's response to hate speech, violent extremism and disinformation on the occasion of the Atlantic Council's 2019 Global Forum on Strategic Communications (October 23-24, Washington, DC). The Delegation of the European Union to the United States is an official partner of the Forum.
Commissioner Jourova said the following in her message:
"I am sorry I cannot be with you today in person. The topics you are discussing are very pertinent – because while our connected world offers almost endless possibilities, it also possesses a dark side. Hate speech, violent extremism online and disinformation all have the potential to threaten the cohesion of our societies and cause harm to our democracies.
That is why we are taking action to protect our citizens online, as we do offline, and I would like to briefly outline what the EU is doing in this regard.
Illegal hate speech, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance have all been on the rise across Europe in recent years.
In 2016 I initiated a voluntary Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, together with Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter. Instagram, Snap and several European companies have joined recently too.
In three years we have made significant progress: 89% of notifications are now assessed within the 24 hours, compared to 40% in 2016.More than 70% of content is removed compared to 28% three years ago.
And I am very pleased that my colleagues in the Commission services are in dialogue with their U.S. counterparts to share the experience of the Code.
Secondly, illegal hate speech both originates from and fuels violent extremist groups. We need to work together across sectors to better detect and address such online propaganda. The EU Internet Forum, for example, brings together Member States and industry, and has recently focused on how to tackle right-wing violent extremism online.
Finally, disinformation hampers the ability of citizens to take informed decisions, thereby ultimately eroding trust in our democracies.
Unlike hate speech or terrorist content, which is often demonstrably illegal, removal is not a solution for disinformation, if we are to fully uphold fundamental values and protect freedom of speech.
To be clear: I do not want to set up a Ministry of Truth.
Rather, we are looking to increase the clarity of what we see, read and hear online. People should know the where the content comes from, who is paying for it, and who stands to benefit.
That is why we worked with online platforms to create a voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation last year. The Code addresses these challenges by imposing more transparency on political advertising and strengthening the detection of manipulative campaigns, as well as the use of bots and fake accounts.
At the same time, we created together with our Member States a rapid alert system to detect and learn from large-scale disinformation campaigns.
These issues are not going away. We need to maintain a focus on tackling hate speech, violent extremism and disinformation on the internet. That is why events such as this are an important forum for discussion – and my sincere thanks to the Atlantic Council.
It is also why EU-U.S. cooperation is so vital – I strongly support enhancing this cooperation to find new ways to protect our open and pluralist societies.
I wish you all an enjoyable conference."
Watch the video message: