On May 31, 2016, the EU Commission, jointly with representatives of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft, unveiled a code of conduct to combat illegal hate speech online in Europe (“Hate Speech Code”). The Code of Conduct was introduced due to increasing (anonymous) hate speech on social media platforms. The support of platforms serves to combat the frequently shitstorm-like spread of such hate speech. This affects not only public figures, but increasingly also companies, even if only for failed advertising campaigns.

In strictly legal terms, the Code of Conduct is neither an innovation nor an improvement. Even previously, platforms were obligated to initiate notice and takedown procedures and to delete infringing content. It was, however, frequently impossible to enforce the claim in practice. While it is easily possible to obtain an injunction against IT companies in a German court, for example, forcing the platform to delete the infringing content, such orders are not enforceable, however, if the IT companies are headquartered in the United States. This issue itself will remain unchanged since the Code of Conduct is a "mere" self-regulatory commitment and an enforceable claim continues to be lacking. The Code of Conduct and its creation in cooperation with the IT companies can at least be considered as an expression of good will, however, and it should be easier to combat shitstorm-like hate speech in the future. The commitments of IT companies include

  • having in place clear and effective processes to review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access to such content,
  • reviewing the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and removing or disabling access to such content, if necessary, and
  • providing information on the procedures for submitting notices, with a view to improving the speed and effectiveness of communication between the Member State authorities and the IT Companies.

For details see http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1937_en.htm