Commentary

EU Cracks Down On Social Media Hate Speech

The spread of hate speech, terrorist incitement and fake news on social media has triggered a regulatory backlash in Europe, where European Union officials are readying a crackdown on these and other forms of illicit content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, according to Reuters, which first reported the news.

Under the new rules, approved by EU ministers just a day after a terrorist attack killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester, social media platforms must block videos containing hate speech, calls for violence or praise for terrorists.

This requirement, part of a revision of the EU’s existing Audiovisual Media Services Directive first issued last year, would apply only to posted videos, not live streaming content.

Among other things, the EU law would require big social platforms to make it easier for users to flag offending content.

The proposed rules will now go to the European Parliament for approval requiring a majority vote; they are expected to pass.

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Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all voluntarily agreed to begin policing their platforms for hate speech in May 2016, when the directive was first adopted, but an official study in December suggested that they were frequently failing to do so.

The EU law would come amid growing calls for regulation at the national level.

For example, lawmakers in Germany have called on Facebook and other big platforms to do more to combat fake news and hate speech as that country prepares for parliamentary elections on Sept. 24.

In April, German cabinet ministers approved a plan that would make social-media companies liable for fines of up to €50 million, or $53.3 million, if they fail to remove certain kinds of illegal content within 24 hours of being notified.

Earlier this month, a UK parliamentary committee blasted social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, for not doing enough to combat banned content, including hate speech, terrorist propaganda and material depicting child abuse including child pornography.

The report concluded: “The biggest and richest social media companies are shamefully far from taking sufficient action to tackle illegal and dangerous content, to implement proper community standards or to keep their users safe. Given their immense size, resources and global reach, it is completely irresponsible of them to fail to abide by the law, and to keep their users and others safe.”

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