France president Francois Hollande has revealed plans to introduce a law that will make Internet companies hate-speech “accomplices” if they fail to block messages posted by extremist groups.
Speaking in Paris at a World War II memorial, Hollande made reference to a new draft law that’s due to be presented next month, reported Bloomberg, with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve traveling to the U.S. shortly to meet key people at Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook.
Today’s news follows the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, with the French satirical magazine reportedly targeted for posting cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. This led to further attacks in Paris in the days that followed.
It’s not entirely surprising that France is now looking to tighten its laws against inflammatory messages on the Internet, as at Davos in Switzerland last week, Hollande addressed Internet companies directly, requesting that “illegal content” be taken offline.
France already has so-called hate-speech laws in place, allowing individuals to be charged if they’re deemed to have insulted a religion, ethnicity, or race. If this latest draft law is passed — and there is every chance it will be, given current tensions in the country — any company that provides a platform for would-be terrorists could face sanctions.
“The big operators, and we know who they are, can no longer close their eyes if they are considered accomplices of what they host,” said Hollande. “We must act at the European and international level to define a legal framework so that Internet platforms which manage social media be considered responsible, and that sanctions can be taken.”
So how likely is France to succeed in getting the Facebooks of the world to remove perceived hate-speech content? Well, quite likely, if precedent is anything to go by.
In the days that followed the horrific attacks in Paris, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed not to bow to extremists’ demands to censor Facebook, which was in reference to pictures of the prophet Muhammad that had been shared on the social network previously.
However, Facebook generally does bow to the laws of the land and pressure from governments — it has removed “offensive” content in Pakistan and India to avoid being blocked. And following a Turkish court threat to ban Facebook over offensive prophet Muhammad Pages just yesterday, Facebook finally complied with the request to block the Pages.
If Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are to be regarded as accomplices in hate-speech offences, you can bet they’ll do all in their power to remove messages posted by extremist groups posthaste.