Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to European Union data released Thursday.
The EU figures were released as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the 27-nation bloc’s 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 to comply with strict new EU online rules after owner Elon Musk laid off many of the platform’s 7,500 full-time workers and an untold number of contractors responsible for the content moderation and other crucial tasks.
The EU report, conducted over six weeks in the spring, found that Twitter evaluated just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, up from 82 percent in 2021.
By comparison, the amount of flagged material Facebook reviewed in 24 hours fell to 64 percent, Instagram was down to 56.9 percent and YouTube was down to 83.3 percent. TikTok hit 92 percent, the only company to improve.
The amount of hate speech Twitter removed after it was flagged fell to 45.4 percent from 49.8 percent a year earlier. TikTok’s removal rate fell by a quarter to 60 percent, while Facebook and Instagram only saw minor declines. It only increased the removal rate of YouTube, reaching 90 percent.
“It is worrying to see a downward trend in the review of notifications related to illegal hate speech by social media platforms,” European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova tweeted. “Online hate speech is a scourge of the digital age and platforms must live up to their commitments.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Emails sent to various employees of the company’s European communications team were recovered as undeliverable.
Musk’s acquisition of Twitter last month fueled widespread concern that purveyors of lies and misinformation could thrive on the site. The billionaire Tesla CEO, who has frequently expressed his belief that Twitter has become too restrictive, has been reinstating suspended accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump.
Twitter faces increased scrutiny in Europe in the middle of next year, when new EU rules aimed at protecting the online safety of Internet users begin to apply to the biggest online platforms. Violations could result in huge fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s annual global revenue.
France’s online regulator Arcom said it received a response from Twitter after writing to the company earlier this week to say it was concerned about the effect the staff departures would have on Twitter’s “ability to maintain a safe environment for its users.
Arcom also asked the company to confirm that it can meet its “legal obligations” in the fight against hate speech online and that it is committed to implementing the new EU online rules. Arcom said it received a response from Twitter and would “study your response,” without elaborating.
Tech companies that have signed up to the EU’s disinformation code agree to commit to measures aimed at curbing disinformation and submit regular reports on whether they are keeping their promises, though there are few penalties.
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