The most recent law passed in France has continued to fuel the controversial debate of ‘free speech or censorship?’
The law has put more pressure on tech platforms to remove hateful comments considered “manifestly illicit” – which might be based on religion, race, gender, disability or sexual orientation and sexual harassment – within 24 hours after they are flagged by users. Content that engages in terrorism or child pornography must be removed within one hour of being flagged.
The National Assembly – who passed the new legislation – has given platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat strict deadlines to remove content. If the companies fail to cooperate, they can face fines of up to 4% of their global revenue.
The law aims to “induce responsibility” from the creators of online platforms who argue “that the tool they themselves have created is uncontrollable,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told lawmakers on Wednesday.
The law also sets up a prosecutor specialized in digital content and a government unit to continually observe online hate speech. “People will think twice before crossing the red line if they know that there is a high likelihood that they will be held to account,” Belloubet said.
The matter of social media censorship is a very controversial one. Whilst indeed, harmful content and one that encourages criminal activity or discrimination should be removed to protect users, it calls into question speech in other contexts when discussion comprises of a personal opinion that may or may not offend others but will be removed because it does not conform to one set of guidelines. Some might argue that personal opinion represents our civil liberties and when censored – impinges upon individual freedom of expression and curbs the right to access free flowing information.
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