This Will Help Make Social Media A Safer Place

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Social media isn't always a fun place. Many women and minorities find themselves victims of misogyny, hate speech, and online attacks. Terrorist groups also use it to promote their propaganda and recruit new members. While we struggle to make headway in regulating these issues in the U.S., trying to figure out where the line between free speech and censorship is, the European Union is taking steps to make the internet a less hateful place. The E.U. passed a code of conduct that Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube agreed to today. The code requires these companies "to review the majority" of requests for removing illegal hate speech "in less than 24 hours, and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary." With events such as the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, governments are increasingly aware — and concerned — with how groups, such as ISIS, for instance, can use social media to spread their antagonist propaganda, and recruit new members to their cause. Tech companies have been cooperative with these governments in the past (in identifying and removing ISIS-friendly accounts, for example, or policing racist content), but with this code, expectations are solidly outlined. "We value civility and free expression, and so our terms of use prohibit advocating violence and hate speech on Microsoft-hosted consumer services," Microsoft Vice President E.U. Government Affairs, John Frank, said in a statement. "Joining the code of conduct reconfirms our commitment to this important issue." To check on the progress of these measures, regular meetings will take place through the rest of this year, along with a formal assessment at the year's end. It's good to see these companies taking online threats and attacks seriously. Managing and countering them is no easy feat, but it's one that is desperately important to ensuring our social spheres are a safe place to hang out.

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