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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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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)

Next Story

New Zealand, France Plan in Effort to Stop Promotion of Terrorism, Violent Extremism on Social Media

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook

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FILE - The Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

In the wake of the Christchurch attack, New Zealand said on Wednesday that it would work with France in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that she will co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 15 that will seek to have world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge, called the Christchurch Call, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for the mass shooting.

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Students light candles as they gather for a vigil to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 18, 2019. (VOA)

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism,” Ardern said in the statement.

“This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies,” she added.

The meeting will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 digital ministers, of which France is the chair, and France’s separate Tech for Good summit, both on 15 May, the statement said.

Ardern said at a press conference later on Wednesday that she has spoken with executives from a number of tech firms including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google and few other companies.

“The response I’ve received has been positive. No tech company, just like no government, would like to see violent extremism and terrorism online,” Ardern said at the media briefing, adding that she had also spoken with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg directly on the topic.

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Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism. VOA

A Facebook spokesman said the company looks forward to collaborating with government, industry and safety experts on a clear framework of rules.

“We’re evaluating how we can best support this effort and who among top Facebook executives will attend,” the spokesman said in a statement sent by email. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism.

ALSO READ: Social Media Giant Facebook Announces First Browser API for Google Chrome

One of the main groups representing Muslims in France has said it was suing Facebook and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet’s Google, accusing them of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of the Christchurch massacre on their platforms.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last month that the company was looking to place restrictions on who can go live on its platform based on certain criteria. (VOA)