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Twitter and other social networks did not remove hate speech in 2022, says EU review

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Twitter Hate content took longer to be reviewed and less was removed in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to European Union data released on Thursday. The EU figures were released as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s 27 countries’ code of conduct on disinformation.

Twitter wasn’t alone—most other tech companies that signed up to the voluntary code also fared worse. But the figures could portend trouble for Twitter under tough new EU internet rules after owner Elon Musk laid off many of the platform’s 7,500 full-time employees and countless contractors responsible for content moderation and other important tasks.

The EU report, which took place over six weeks in the spring, found that Twitter rated just over half of the messages it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, compared to 82% in 2021.

In comparison, the number of tagged content viewed by Facebook in 24 hours fell to 64%, Instagram fell to 56.9% and YouTube fell to 83.3%. TikTok was at 92%, the only company to improve.

The number of hate speech removed on Twitter after being flagged fell to 45.4% from 49.8% a year earlier. TikTok’s delete rate dropped by a quarter to 60%, while Facebook and Instagram saw slight declines. Only YouTube’s takedown rate increased, reaching 90%.

“It is concerning to observe a downward trend in the number of notifications related to illegal hate speech on social networks,” European Commission Vice President Vera Yurova wrote on Twitter. “Online hate speech is the scourge of the digital age and platforms must meet their obligations.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Emails to several employees of the company’s communications department in Europe were undelivered.

Musk has $44 billion acquisition of Twitter last month sparked widespread concern that purveyors of lies and misinformation would be allowed to thrive on the site. Billionaire CEO of Teslawho often expressed his belief that Twitter had become too restrictive, reinstated suspended accounts including former President Donald Trump.

By the middle of next year, Twitter will face increased scrutiny in Europe when new EU rules aimed at protecting the safety of internet users begin to apply to the internet’s biggest platforms. Violations can lead to huge fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global revenue.

French internet regulator Arcom said it had received a response from Twitter after writing to the company earlier this week saying it was concerned about the effect the staff departure would have on “Twitter’s ability to maintain a safe environment for users”.

Arcom also asked the company to confirm that it can meet its “legal obligations” to combat hate speech online and that it is committed to complying with new EU online rules. Arcom said it had received a response from Twitter and that it would “study their response,” without giving further details.

Tech companies that sign up to the EU’s misinformation code agree to take steps to cut down on misinformation and to report regularly on whether they keep their promises, though there are little penalties.

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