Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Microsoft as well as the European Commission have released a new code of conduct demonstrating these companies commitment to remove hate speech content in less than 24 hours across these social media platforms.

The code of conduct is not legally binding for the Internet companies, even though many of its policies are already covered by other EU legislation such as the e-commerce directive. Instead, it establishes “public commitments” for the companies, including the requirement to review the “majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech” in less than 24 hours and to make it easier for the law enforcement authorities to notify the companies directly. The companies have also stated that they would continue to collaborate with the EU in order to identify and discredit extremist speech by promoting so-called “counter-narratives” and supporting educational programs which stimulate critical thinking.

The code of conduct signals the first major attempt to codify how technology companies should respond to hate speech content online, while trying to find the appropriate balance between freedom of expression and hateful content.