Photo by Sam Tranum

Removing Hate Speech Online

“The law applies online just as much as offline. We cannot accept a digital Wild West, and we must act,” said Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova, when she presented the European Commission’s guidance for online platforms to tackle illegal content inciting hatred, violence and terrorism online. The guidelines aim to help online platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to more proactively detect, remove and prevent its appearance.

According to the guidelines, platforms should cooperate more closely with national authorities to remove illegal content as fast as possible, allow users to flag hate speech, and invest in automatic detection technologies.

A year ago, four major online companies – Google, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft – agreed to the European Union’s code of conduct on countering hate speech online. It obliges IT companies to block or remove illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours. At the moment, 59 percent of illegal content disappears from the platforms and 51 percent within one day, according to the commission. The commission says it expects more.

Mixed Basket

Several recent studies show that some producers sell different quality products in different European countries, even when it is the same brand and the same packaging. That might mean coffee with less caffeine and more sugar in some countries, or frozen fish fingers with less fish. It is mostly Eastern European markets that are being fobbed off with worse products, including thee Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Earlier this year the German baby-food maker HiPP was accused of selling “significantly different” jars of baby food in Croatia and in Germany. The European Commission has now published guidelines to help member states detect whether a product sold in their country is worse quality and if food producers are therefore breaking EU laws. The commission is also working on a methodology so member states can better compare products. It’s ready to “name and shame” dishonest companies, it has said.

No Roaming

Since 15 June 2017, those living in the European Union can use their mobile phones in different member states without paying extra roaming charges. According to a Eurobarometer survey on roaming at the end of the summer, a large majority of Europe residents have changed their behaviour when using mobile phones abroad.

The survey suggests that 74 percent of those in Ireland are aware that roaming charges have ended and that they can use their mobiles while travelling around the EU as they would do at home. Meanwhile, 91 percent of respondents in Ireland think that they, or someone from their friends or family, will benefit from the change. According to the survey the number of travellers who used their mobile abroad doubled after 15 June. In general European mobile-phone companies have complied with the new rules but the commission says it will continue to monitor the mobile markets to make sure they do.

Resettling Refugees

The Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has put forward a new round of EU migration and asylum initiatives, including a new resettlement scheme for at least 50,000 refugees who need international protection.

The new scheme will be put in place until October 2019 and will replace current resettlement schemes. The commission has set aside €500 million to support member states’ resettlement effort. Member states are not obliged to take part, but so far 11 countries, including Ireland, have pledged to accept 14,000 refugees. The Irish government has committed to accepting 600 people.

Right now, Ireland accepts refugees under two paths: the resettlement programme and the relocation programme, which takes people from refugee camps in Greece and Italy. Up to now, the Irish government committed to take 1,040 refugees under the resettlement scheme; of those, 785 people have already arrived, and the remainder are supposed to come by the end of the year. It has committed to 2,622 persons under the relocation programme. In comparison, three EU states: Hungary, Poland and Austria have not relocated a single person yet.

Jowita is a Polish journalist based in Brussels, covering EU affairs and legislation.

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