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By Miriam Raftery

May 31, 2016 (San Diego) – A lawsuit filed against Twitter, Facebook and Google by a Jewish youth group in France in April has resulted in major social media and Internet companies pledging to remove hate speech in 24 hours or less after a complaint is filed.  The firms named in the suit, along with Microsoft, issued the promise in a joint statement with the European Commission today, Bloomberg News reports.

The suit alleged that over 90 percent of posts promoting anti-Semitism, homophobia or racism remained on Twitter and YouTube 15 days or more despite being flagged.

The voluntary code of conducts aims to strike a balance between freedom of expression and hate speech that may incite violence or hate, at a time when Europe has been besieged by terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, with foiled attacks in several other nations.

Vĕra Jourová, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, led the creation of the code, the Guardian reports.  She stated, “Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. This agreement is an important step forward to ensure that the internet remains a place of free and democratic expression, where European values and laws are respected.”

The definition of hate speech covered by the code of conduct is narrowly defined as “all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.

But some say the agreement does not go far enough, since it does not include a ban on the verbal abuse of women online. But that may change. Facebook is backing an effort in Britain to seek contributions on how to reduce such misogynist hate speech targeting women on social media sites.