Facebook Acts Faster on Hate Speech Than Twitter and YouTube, Report Shows

Facebook is removing illegal hate speech faster than ever, and with greater transparency than some of its major rivals, a study suggests.

Guy Rosen, VP of integrity at the company, spoke highly of Facebook's ongoing efforts after analysis was released by the European Commission on Tuesday, showing how the platform's enforcement was comparing to YouTube and Twitter.

The findings were based on a study of hate speech notifications during a period of six weeks, between November 4 and December 13, officials said. Facebook defines hate speech as an attack on people based race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, orientation, sex, gender identity and serious disease or disability.

Broadly, the evaluation, the fifth of its kind since 2016, found positive results across the board, with an average of 90 percent of all flagged content being reviewed within 24 hours and 71 percent of hate speech material being completely removed.

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In comparison, only 28 percent of content deemed to be illegal hate speech was being removed in 2016. In the most-recent study, Facebook received additional praise for providing more feedback to users who flagged content than competitors.

"The average removal rate, similar to the one recorded in the previous evaluations, shows that platforms continue to respect freedom of expression and avoid removing content that may not qualify as illegal hate speech," the commission said.

"Platforms responded and gave feedback to 67.1 percent of the notifications received. This is higher than in the previous monitoring exercise (65.4). However, only Facebook informs users systematically; all the other platforms have to make improvements."

According to the findings, Facebook accessed hate speech notifications in less than 24 hours in 95.7 percent of the cases, and 3.4 percent in less than 48 hours.

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In comparison, YouTube accessed 81.5 percent of the cases in 24 hours. In the same period, Twitter accessed 76.6 percent of cases. Instagram handled 91.8 percent.

In terms of removal rates, it was found that, on average, 83.5 percent of content "calling for murder or violence of specific groups" was removed. Content using "defamatory words or pictures to name certain groups" was deleted in 57.8 percent of cases.

According to the commission, Facebook is the only platform "systematically" providing feedback to users, with 93.7% of notifications being given a response.

The study indicated that Instagram gave feedback to 62.4 percent of all notifications, while Twitter responded 43.8 percent and YouTube responded to 8.8 percent.

There was one caveat noted, however: "While Facebook is the only company informing consistently both trusted flaggers and general users, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram provide feedback more frequently when notifications come from trusted flaggers."

In its latest transparency report, Facebook said it took action against 9.6 million pieces of content for violating hate speech policies between January and March. It said 88 percent of that was found before reaching the eyes of general users.

The social network has teams and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms scouring for hate speech constantly, Rosen noted in a blog post. "Moving fast to find and remove hate speech takes significant investment in both people and technology," he said.

"While we recognize we have more to do, these results suggest we are moving in the right direction and have systems in place which continue to lead our industry."

A Twitter spokesperson told Newsweek: "The latest evaluation... clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of an EU-wide approach to countering illegal hate speech online.

"Our number one priority is to improve the health of the public conversation, and we invest in a combination of technology and human review to ensure the safety of people who use our service. Twitter continues to be a collaborative partner and work closely with the European Commission, governments, civil society and industry, including our Trust and Safety Council, to better address emerging challenges."

You can read the full European Commission report here.

This article has been updated with a comment from a Twitter spokesperson.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers his speech during the VivaTech (Viva Technology) trade fair in Paris, on May 24, 2018. GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty
Facebook Acts Faster on Hate Speech Than Twitter and YouTube, Report Shows | Tech & Science