Twitter meets with EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

By Karen White
Thursday, 3 November 2016

Sometimes the free movement of people and the Internet both face the same seemingly contradictory problem. Both are positive human developments that should reduce barriers between groups, foster an appreciation for different cultures, and create meaningful connections for all of us. Unfortunately, in today’s society, we see that this isn’t always the case. Fast-paced information sharing and cross-cultural dialogue can often lead to simmering tensions between different group identities and, on occasion, manifest negatively on the Internet in the form of hateful discourse and targeted abuse. It was with this in mind that Twitter joined the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance for a conversation directed towards a better shared understanding of this behaviour online and enabling everyone to address it effectively.

The EU High Level Group shares best practices and convenes discussions on how to better prevent hate crime and hate speech. As well as European institutions and industry, the Group comprises of civil society organisations and community representatives - people with real knowledge of how intolerance festers within a given society. 

In our recent discussion with the High Level Group, we spoke with NGOs, law enforcement agencies and government representatives from all over Europe on Twitter’s policies and reporting mechanisms. We talked about how these policies have developed, how they’re enforced and the philosophy that underpins our approach to Trust & Safety across the entire company. We also described the tools that are available to users to control their experience, such as Mute, Multiple-Tweet Reporting and Block.

Beyond rules and tools, the discussion must now turn to the kind of positive behaviour we can all encourage online. What forms of content can meet hatred head-on and prevail? In partnership with Twitter, the Media Diversity Institute offers some simple guidance here. First, don’t spread hateful Tweets. Second, challenge the message, not the person. Third, be polite and not abusive. Fourth, don’t post anything you might regret. Finally, work with others so that you have support. This final point is particularly important for government and civil society; if you can build alliances and coordinate your speech, you’ll be far more powerful than the sum of your parts. In the real-world, as on the Internet, there’s always strength in unity. The cumulative efforts of a positive, committed group will outshine the disjointed efforts of a few misguided and intolerant individuals.

Twitter will continue to participate in these constructive and focused discussions with a view to creating a better Internet for all.