Five European Commissioners will meet with representatives of online platforms in Brussels on January 9 to discuss progress made in tackling the spread of illegal content, including online terrorist propaganda and xenophobic, racist or hate speech. They will also discuss breaches of intellectual property rights.

Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Věra Jourová, Julian King and Mariya Gabriel issued the following statement: “Terrorist propaganda and content that incites violence and hatred online is a serious threat to security, safety and fundamental rights. It demands a collective response – from all actors, including the internet industry.”

They said online platforms have significantly increased the resources devoted to removing violent and extremist content quickly, including through automated removal.

“This is starting to achieve results. However, even if tens of thousands of pieces of illegal content have been taken down, there are still hundreds of thousands more out there. And removal needs to be speedy: the longer illegal material stays online, the greater its reach, the more it can spread and grow. Building on the current voluntary approach, more efforts and progress have to be made.”

The Commission is calling on online platforms to step up and speed up their efforts to tackle these threats quickly and comprehensively, including closer cooperation with national and enforcement authorities, increased sharing of know-how between online players and further action against the reappearance of illegal content.

In May 2016, the European Commission and four major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft) announced a Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech.

An evaluation carried out by NGOs and public bodies in 24 member states, released in June 2017, showed that the companies have made significant progress in following up on their commitments.

On average, in 59% of the cases, the IT companies responded to notifications concerning illegal hate speech by removing the content. This is more than twice the level that was recorded six months earlier. The next evaluation is due to be published in the coming weeks.

In October, the Commission adopted its Work Programme for 2018 committing to continue to promote cooperation with social media companies to detect and remove terrorist and other illegal content online.