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.