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New French Law Seeks To Make Google, Facebook As Accomplices To Hate Speech

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

The French law authorities are planning to introduce a new legislation that will make companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter accountable for terrorism related material posted on their sites. Speaking at World War II memorial in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said that the proposed law would also ensure that the tech companies who refuse to remove or censor objectionable content from their sites would be considered as accomplices to hate speech. If passed and implemented, the new law would have a profound impact on how the tech companies, especially social media sites, operate within the country.

In the light of the worst terrorist attack on its soil, France (as well as other European countries) are under intense pressure to counter the threats posted by foreign and homegrown extremists. The Charlie Hebdo attacks have also thrown a spotlight on the amount of extremist material available online and how the European authorities are planning to deal with it. In order to reassure their citizens and counter online terror threats, European leaders have made some surprising and truly absurd announcements recently including a demand for ban on encrypted services (https://vpncoupons.com/uk-pm-promises-outlaw-encrypted-communications/) as well as forcing online companies to hand over their secret encryption keys (https://vpncoupons.com/eu-wants-to-force-internet-companies-to-reveal-their-encryption-keys/).

Speaking at the event, Hollande said that the authorities must act at European and international level to help define a regulatory framework that would make online companies, including social sites, more responsible towards the content posted on their sites or face sanctions. The French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is planning to visit United States pretty soon in order to discuss the fine details of the proposed law with the major Silicon Valley companies.

It is worth remembering here that most websites, including Facebook and Twitter, have already terms in place that bar users from posting offensive, objectionable or harmful content. However, it is also a general practice among online service providers to ignore offensive content posted on their sites and not to do anything unless there is a hue and cry about it. But the proposed law may force service providers to police content and remove objectionable posts more proactively since failure to do so may result in stiff fines or blocking of the entire website.

Online privacy activists have strongly objected to the provisions defined in the proposed law. They fear that once enacted, the law would reduce freedom of expression online and force service providers to indulge in all sorts of censorship. Service providers, on the other hand, have expressed their inability to prescreen or police content due to the sheer volume of new material that gets posted on their sites every day.

France already has strict laws against racism and hate speech. If the new legislation gets approved by the French parliament, it would have a significant impact on social networks and sites that rely on user generated content. Instead of providing a good service to the users, the proposed law would force service providers to monitor and censor content or risk facing crippling sanctions.

June 4, 2015

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