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EU states approve plans to make social media firms tackle hate speech

[BRUSSELS] European Union ministers approved plans on Tuesday to make social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube tackle hate speech on their platforms, the first legislation at EU level on the issue.

The proposals still need to be agreed with the European Parliament before becoming law, but EU lawmakers have similarly pushed for social media companies to be included in the legislation.

The proliferation of hate speech and fake news on social media has increased pressure on companies to remove such content promptly, while internet campaigners have warned an excessive crackdown could endanger freedom of speech.

Tuesday's agreement came a day after a suicide bomber killed at least 22 people at a concert in the English city of Manchester. Ministers all offered their condolences to the British delegation.

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Social media companies will have to take measures to prevent the proliferation of hate speech, incitement to hatred and content justifying terrorism on their platforms. They could include establishing mechanisms for users to flag such content.

"We need to take into account new ways of watching videos, and find the right balance to encourage innovative services, promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech in a better way," said Andrus Ansip, EU Commission Vice-President for the digital single market.

The proposals also include a quota of 30 percent of European films and TV shows on video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, up from the 20 per cent originally proposed by the European Commission.