27 September 2023

The French connection: Why France wants Facebook to codify hate speech

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Cyrus Farivar* says French President, Emmanuel Macron has urged Silicon Valley to submit to regulation in its efforts to monitor hate speech.

For the first time, Facebook has agreed to allow French regulators to work closely with the company as a way to monitor what actions it’s taking to combat hate speech.

If necessary, France could impose further regulations on the social media giant.

In a French-language speech before the Internet Governance Forum held in Paris last week, French President, Emmanuel Macron (pictured) said that the two sides would work together for six months starting in early 2019 to come up with “joint, precise, and concrete” proposals that both Menlo Park and Paris could agree with.

“There’s a Californian Internet and a Chinese Internet,” he explained, urging those in attendance to seek a middle-ground, “European” model.

In a 49-minute address, Macron outlined what he meant and encouraged private companies to collaborate with government to codify this in regulation.

Macron called for a “common roadmap,” which would include user-data protection and regulation of content.

However, European laws are generally less permissive than the sweeping powers of the United States’ First Amendment, which generally permits hate speech.

So, it remains unclear how the global community can come to an agreement as to what speech would be allowed.

The French Government has also proposed a “Paris Call,” which features a list of supporting companies, organisations, and national governments, ranging from Estonia to the United Arab Emirates.

The United States is not on the list.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone emailed Ars Technica to say that this was not an “‘embed’ program”.

He continued: “It’s a pilot program of a more structured engagement with the French Government so that both sides can better understand the other’s challenges in dealing with the issue of hate speech online.”

“The program will allow a team of regulators, chosen by the Elysée, to familiarise [itself] with the tools and processes set up by Facebook to fight against hate speech.”

“The working group will not be based in one location but will travel to different Facebook facilities around the world, with likely visits to Dublin and California.”

“The purpose of this program is to enable regulators to better understand Facebook’s tools and policies to combat hate speech and, for Facebook, to better understand the needs of regulators.”

* Cyrus Farivar is a senior tech policy reporter at Ars Technica. He tweets at @cfarivar.

This article first appeared at arstechnica.com.

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