Yesterday speech got a little more regulated in Europe:
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft agreed Tuesday to review requests for the removal of hateful content posted on their sites within 24 hours as part of a new code of conduct deal with EU regulators.
Authorities across Europe have been trying in recent months to get social platforms to crack down on a rise in racism online, with some European agencies even threatening to take legal action against the companies.
Europe has been struggling to manage expressions of opposition to government – including hateful and offensive speech online – in the wake of terror attacks in France and the migrant crisis across the continent:
European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said tackling online hate speech has taken on an added urgency because of the increasing use of social media by terrorist groups to radicalise young people and incite violence.
Europe has also seen an increase in cyber racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of Europe’s migrant crisis, which has seen tens of thousands of war zone refugees seeking to cross into the EU.
The European Commission said the four US online giants will review the majority of valid notifications for the removal of hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content if necessary.
The solution to unpopular, hateful, and offensive speech, then, is to ban it. Smart?
Not at all.
The solution to speech that you don’t like, that offends you, or that represents the hateful feelings of someone is not shutting that speech down; it is more speech. Unfortunately, the governments of Europe do not see it this way.
As the France 24 report reminds the reader this sort of action is nothing new for Europe:
Several countries in Europe, including France, have laws dating from after World War II against “inciting racial hatred” through speech.
There’s lots to admire about Europe but their response to speech that offends is not one of them.
To be clear, I think it is fine for Twitter, Facebook, and anyone else to have a policy of not publishing certain speech, removing certain speech, and managing their platform any way they like. That’s the key: it’s their platform. But for a country, a government, or a supranational body like the EU to instruct, pressure, or encourage others to censor speech, or to pass laws outlying certain speech, ideas, and opinions is always a bad idea.