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Three French activist organizations stated that they plan to file legal complaints against popular social media sites that they believe are in violation of the country’s hate speech laws. They claim to have found numerous examples of hate speech, but only a small fraction was taken down by the social media platforms.

The French Jewish Students Union (UEJF), SOS Racisme and SOS Homophobie are targeting Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube with their complaints. They claim to have documented 586 examples of “hate speech” between the end of March and May 10. They report that Twitter deleted four percent of the hateful content, Youtube deleted seven percent and Facebook deleted 34 percent. The organizations believe these companies are in clear violation of French law which requires sites to remove content that is racist, homophobic or antisemitic, and to report the content to authorities.

A joint press release was published by the organizations. UEJF president Sacha Reingewirtz called on the social media giants to do more to combat hate speech and stated, “In light of Youtube, Twitter and Facebook’s profits and how little taxes they pay, their refusal to invest in the fight against hate is unacceptable.” SOS Racisme President Dominique Sopo stated, “Twitter, Youtube and Facebook cannot continue to make soothing statements  to cover their inaction on moderation. These platforms seem more shocked by pictures of topless women, which are quickly censored, then these incitments of hatred against  against people or groups of people. Our Lawsuit against them is to enforce a fair application of the law and to ensure they fully comply with the law.”

This is not the first time social media companies have been targeted under European hate speech laws. In December, Facebook, Twitter and Google all made a pledge to delete hate speech within 24 hours, as a result of pressure from the German government. Earlier this year, Facebook took even stronger measures to deal with xenophobic content that was posted on its platform after German prosecutors began investigating the company. In addition to pledging over a million dollars to combat online extremism, Facebook also hired the services of a German media company to monitor the site and delete hate speech.

Should Facebook, Twitter and YouTube do more to police hate speech that is posted on their platforms? Do hate speech laws interfere with free speech? How should international media and social media companies deal with the huge variety of laws in the world? Leave your comments below!

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Azure

    Well they are the ones that dug their own graves trying to cater to different countries with their ‘pledge’. They should have stuck with the free speech thing and let its users use the report system to flag content for removal. Social media should not and cannot control their billion of users so easily. Especially when the countries demanding censorship are causing massive concern to their own people.

  • Hawk Hopper

    French law which requires sites to remove content that is racist, homophobic or antisemitic, and to report the content to authorities

    I’m highly against laws like this. What if you post a joke that ruffles the feathers of whatever people these laws are trying to “protect” and you end up in prison? What if the authorities responding to these reports takes offense to posts, no matter how innocuous, and has people prosecuted because of the authorities sensitivities?

    Laws like this stifle speech and make people paranoid about what they are posting, even if they aren’t doing anything wrong.

  • SureManThanks

    Do any of these companies have a physical presence in France? If not, it seems like the easiest way to deal with this is for them to stop offering service in France altogether by blocking users from French ISPs. Sucks for the French users of course, but hopefully they’ll figure out they need to vote for less authoritarian leaders in the future.

  • Jonbo298

    Soon we’re going to have boxes to check to confirm what you’re about to post is legal in X country and Y country and Z country, just so corporations can absolve liability because of this.

  • Thadypus

    That seems fine in principle, but from a corporate standpoint, it is a terrible idea. Social media is only profitable and worthwhile from a business standpoint if you are in all of the markets. Chinese social media companies and search companies are trying to break in to non-Chinese markets because even having a 1 billion people isn’t enough of a market share.

    They are going to continue to comply as best as they are able while also struggling to keep up the appearance of being for free speech. In a way, it is kind of like many governments in the West. Try to appease the people who get offended while also pretending to have free speech. It will work a good while and eventually, you will understand that 2 + 2 has always been 5.

  • MusouTensei

    Fuck france.