Hate Speech

The European Union Wants to Censor Hate Speech on Social Media

The rules would apply only to videos-for now.

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European Union flag
Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto/Sipa US/Newscom

In America, civil libertarians frequently have to remind citizens that there's no "hate speech" exemption to the First Amendment. But our First Amendment doesn't fly in Europe, and now the European Union (EU) may be about to mandate censorship rules for social media.

EU ministers today approved a plan that will require social media platforms and online video hosts to block and remove videos that contain "hate speech, incitement to hatred and content justifying terrorism from their platforms," according to Reuters. For now at least, this just covers videos, not text, images, or livestreaming.

It's not entirely clear whether Facebook or YouTube will have to censor videos posted by platform users in the United States to remain in compliance with the law. We do know that EU countries like Germany are just itching to levy huge fines—tens of millions of euros—on social media companies that haven't been quick to suppress hate speech. That kind of pressure would certainly encourage a very broad censorship regime on the part of the companies.

The new rule has been in the works for a while—part of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, a set of commercial media regulations. In addition to ordering the censorship of content, the EU wants to dabble in cultural protectionism: The proposal approved today mandates that 30 percent of the content of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime be from member countries. The recommendation was originally 20 percent, but EU ministers jacked it up.

This will be the EU's first attempt to adopt this sort of platform censorship. If the European Parliament approves the regulations, don't be surprised to see more.

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  1. Which will be followed by people demanding we do the same thing here, because “That’s how Europe does it.”

  2. It’s not entirely clear whether Facebook or YouTube will have to censor videos posted by platform users in the United States to remain in compliance with the law.

    It’d be nice to get a yuk-filled John Oliver rant on this type of Net Neutrality. I’ll not hold my breaths.

  3. The hate speech censorship agenda is going to implode horrifically at some point. Because someday the terrorists will blow up a chemical agent in a crowded place and thousands will die and all these people will be compelled to turn to their social media platforms to condemn it and they will be struck with fines and bans and they will rage and be raged upon; ashes to ashes.

    There is no pretty way to control speech; in fact there’s nothing pretty about speech in general. Not even my hammfisted poetry:

    New moon rising black;
    In shadow cherry blossoms
    Fall unseen, unheard

  4. This thread begs for a ‘You know who else..’ subby, but the answer really is Hitler, so…

  5. So it’s Great Eurasian Firewall now, right?

  6. This will be the EU’s first attempt to adopt this sort of platform censorship. If the European Parliament approves the regulations, don’t be surprised to see more.

    You can expect it undoubtedly. The real problem comes in when you try to compare it with breadth and scope of the anti-immigrant and white-nationalist violence that ensued after Brexit.

  7. Everything said on CNN is hateful, so I am all for this.
    But only if I get to pick what is hate speech. (I’m looking at you Nancy)

  8. And yet, no plan to do anything about actual terror or terrorists.

    It’s nice to be an Eurocrat. So much easier than a King,

  9. You know who else called for comparisons to Hitler?

    1. Fist of Etiquette?

  10. Why would the EU care where it’s hosted? The EU already does things like base antitrust fines on global revenue, and tax airplanes for their flight time over non-EU countries. These companies were stupid enough to to set up business units inside the EU, now they’re going to be ruled by EU law.

  11. They’ve built in a contradiction which will make it impossible to enforce world-wide limits.

    A: Some EU courts have already ruled that content must be taken down world-wide, not just in the EU or one specific country. This presumably means they consider it immoral for EU subjects to use VPNs to access non-EU content, but take it out on the providers rather than the criminal subjects.

    B: That presumably means they have to consider VPNs when testing the 30% home content.

    So when France checks for 30% content, they have to include all VPNs, which means even if French content was 100% of netflix.fr content, adding in all world-wide content would drop it down to 5% or 1% French content. Same thing for all EU contries.

    This is going to be fun. King Canute to the rescue!

  12. 30 years from now Euros will be calling us backward barbarians for continuing to allow our citizens the opportunity to speak such atrocities.

  13. Have they settled on a definition of this thing they call ‘hate speech’?

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