The European Union has signed a censorship deal with four of the world’s biggest tech firms which will see content censored in just 24 hours should someone claim that the content is ‘hate speech’.Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google have all committed to new rules designed to ensure that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally .
All four firms have committed to quickly analyse and remove content involving public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin .
Vera Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said, The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. She didn’t mention how important it is to let people criticise groups behind those terror attacks
Eurocrats have claimed the laws are not about stifling freedom of expression, but making sure social media isn’t used to spread extremist messages of hate.
But not everyone is buying this claim. Keith Porteus Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, issued a statement condemning the hate speech laws . He wrote:
The public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin will create a chilling effect on freedom of expression and will be misused to muzzle it
On Twitter, one person insightfully observed that Brussels was intent on banning speech we don’t like by calling it hate speech .
Jodie Ginsberg, Index on Censorship chief executive, noted:
Hate speech laws are already too broad and ambiguous in much of Europe. This agreement fails to properly define what ‘illegal hate speech’ is and does not provide sufficient safeguards for freedom of expression.
The agreement once again devolves power to unelected corporations to determine what amounts to hate speech and police it. There have been precedents of content removal for unpopular or offensive viewpoints and this agreement risks amplifying the phenomenon of deleting controversial, yet legal, content via misuse or abuse of the notification processes.