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Facebook Allows French Regulars To Oversee Hate Speech Control

France's use of embedded regulators is modeled on what happens in its banking and nuclear industries.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, digital
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Facebook will allow French regulators to “embed” inside the company to examine how it combats online hate speech, the first time the wary tech giant has opened its doors in such a way, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.

From January, Macron’s administration will send a small team of senior civil servants to the company for six months to verify Facebook’s goodwill and determine whether its checks on racist, sexist or hate-fueled speech could be improved.

“It’s a first,” Macron told the annual Internet Governance Forum in Paris. “I’m delighted by this very innovative experimental approach,” he said. “It’s an experiment, but a very important first step in my view.”

The trial project is an example of what Macron has called “smart regulation,” something he wants to extend to other tech leaders such as Google, Apple and Amazon.

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Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace after the “Tech for Good” summit, in Paris, France. VOA

The move follows a meeting with Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg in May, when Macron invited the CEOs of some of the biggest tech firms to Paris, telling them they should work for the common good.

The officials may be seconded from the telecoms regulator and the interior and justice ministries, a government source said. Facebook said the selection was up to the French presidency.

It is unclear whether the group will have access to highly-sensitive material such as Facebook’s algorithms or codes to remove hate speech. It could travel to Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin and global base in Menlo Park, California, if necessary, the company said.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“The best way to ensure that any regulation is smart and works for people is by governments, regulators and businesses working together to learn from each other and explore ideas,” Nick Clegg, the former British deputy prime minister who is now head of Facebook’s global affairs, said in a statement.

France’s approach to hate speech has contrasted sharply with Germany, Europe’s leading advocate of privacy.

Also Read: Online Hate Thriving Even After The Recent Hate Crime in The U.S.

Since January, Berlin has required sites to remove banned content within 24 hours or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($56 million). That has led to accusations of censorship.

France’s use of embedded regulators is modeled on what happens in its banking and nuclear industries.

“[Tech companies] now have the choice between something that is smart but intrusive and regulation that is wicked and plain stupid,” a French official said. (VOA)

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Time Spent on Social Media May Not Make Teens Depressed: Study

For the study, researchers worked with 500 youth between the ages of 13 and 20, who completed once-yearly questionnaires over an eight-year span

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Social Media
Social Media use was measured by asking participants how much time they spent on social networking sites on a typical day. Pixabay

The amount of time spent on social media is not directly adding to the anxiety or depression issues in teenagers, say reseachers from Brigham Young University.

The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, shows that it is not merely the amount of time spent on social media that’s leading to an increase in depression or anxiety among adolescents.

“We spent eight years trying to really understand the relationship between time spent on social media and depression for developing teenagers,” said study author Sarah Coyne, Professor at Brigham Young University in the US.

“If they increased their social media time, would it make them more depressed? Also, if they decreased their social media time, were they less depressed? The answer is no. We found that time spent on social media was not what was impacting anxiety or depression,” Coyne added.

Mental health is a multi-process syndrome, where no one stressor is likely to be the cause of depression or anxiety.

Social Media
Time spent on Social Media is not what was impacting anxiety or depression. Pixabay

For the study, researchers worked with 500 youth between the ages of 13 and 20, who completed once-yearly questionnaires over an eight-year span.

Social media use was measured by asking participants how much time they spent on social networking sites on a typical day.

To measure depression and anxiety, participants responded to questions with different scales to indicate depressive symptoms and anxiety levels.

These results were then analysed on an individual level to see if there was a strong correlation between the two variables.

At age 13, adolescents reported an average social networking use of 31-60 minutes per day.

These average levels increased steadily so that by young adulthood, they were reporting upwards of two hours per day.

According to the researchers, this increase of social networking, though, did not predict future mental health. That is, adolescents’ increase in social networking beyond their typical levels did not predict changes in anxiety or depression one year later.

Social Media
Social Media use was measured by asking participants how much time they spent on social networking sites on a typical day. Pixabay

Researchers suggest some healthier ways to use social media: Be an active user instead of a passive user. Instead of just scrolling, actively comment, post and like other content.

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Limit social media use at least an hour before falling asleep. Getting enough sleep is one of the most protective factors for mental health, the researchers said. (IANS)