Thursday, December 08, 2016

Facebook Inc (FB), Alphabet Inc (GOOGL) Shouldn’t Fear European Ruling

The EU may consider legislation forcing tech giants like FB and GOOGL to respond quicker

The European Commission recently released a report revealing that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) have thus far failed to comply with the provisions set forth in last May’s voluntary acceptance of an online Code of Conduct agreement.

According to the Code of Conduct, these tech behemoths vowed to implement additional measures aimed at identifying and removing blatantly hateful content, with “the majority” of user reports of such content reviewed and addressed within 24 hours.

Further, each company agreed to implement comprehensive and ongoing training for staff members tasked with addressing these reports, with focus on “current soceital developments” as they may relate to potential surges in hate speech.

Training was supposed to include and encourage participation and involvement by various “civil society organizations” whose goals were to promote tolerance and education.

Apparently, that didn’t happen.

Where These Big Dogs Have Fallen Short

On Sunday, Reuters reported that the European Commission is disappointed at the speed with which the majority of hate speech reports have been handled since the Code of Conduct was signed. Apparently, an average of only 40% of such reports were reviewed and addressed within the 24-hour window.

However, the Commission admitted that “after 48 hours the figure is more than 80 percent.” Still, that one extra day is seemingly unacceptable and has prompted the Commission to consider drawing up legisltation that would force FB, GOOGL, MSFT and TWTR to maintain the agreed-upon 24-hour timeframe for reviewign complaints.

No information has been released regarding possible specifics of the legislation, but European justice ministers are scheduled to meet later this week for a closer examination of the report.

Will This Change Anything for Users?

Generally speaking, it’s not likely. Considering the sheer number of users that these companies have (FB has more than 1.2 billion, GOOGL has more than 2 billion, MSFT has 750 million and TWTR has 317 million), the relative number of complaints regarding hate speech that have been reported over the past six months is almost non-existent.

According to CNBC, “there were 600 notifications to the tech firms regarding hate speech.” Only 316 of them were determined to have possible merit, and of those only 163 resulted in content being removed or deleted. No information was shared as to the origin of those 600 reports and whether they came from Facebook, Google, Twitter or Microsoft.

The Commission’s stance on the statistic is that these companies should have the resources and manpower to more efficiently handle such complaints. So, despite the vast majority of the reports being resolved, one way or another, within 48 hours, the Commission is adamant about enforcing the 24-hour review period.

Clearly, there isn’t a huge number of people making these kinds of complaints every day, and considering that only 28% of the complaints received were apparently a legitimate cause for action, there isn’t a massive push by consumers to crack down on instances of hateful content.

That’s not to suggest that there isn’t an awful lot of such content, but rather that users of Facebook Europe, Twitter and other social media services have gotten very good at avoiding, blocking, or otherwise ignoring those kinds of posts and the people who make them, thanks to extensive and comprehensive privacy features and blocking options available.

Bottom Line on Facebook and the European Commission

At this point, there’s nothing to do except wait for the outcome of the justice ministers’ meeting later in the week.

We won’t know if legislation will be the likely outcome until the Commission can conduct a more thorough examination of related reports and subsequent meetings with representatives from FB, GOOGL, MSFT and TWTR.

Article originally appeared on InvestorPlace (12/08/2016)

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