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Authorities across Europe have been trying in recent months to get social platforms to crack down on a rise in racism online, with some European agencies even threatening to take legal action against the companies.
European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said tackling online hate speech has taken on an added urgency because of the increasing use of social media by terrorist groups to radicalise young people and incite violence.
Europe has also seen an increase in cyber racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of Europe’s migrant crisis, which has seen tens of thousands of war zone refugees seeking to cross into the EU.
The European Commission said the four US online giants will review the majority of valid notifications for the removal of hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content if necessary.
Several countries in Europe, including France, have laws dating from after World War II against “inciting racial hatred” through speech.
On a visit to Silicon Valley last year, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve asked representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter to work more directly with French officials on investigations and to remove terrorist propaganda immediately when authorities alert them to its presence.