Facebook to share hate speech data with French courts

PARIS • In a world first, Facebook has agreed to hand over the identification data of French users suspected of hate speech on its platform to judges, France's minister for digital affairs Cedric O has said.

Mr O, whose father is South Korean, is one of French President Emmanuel Macron's earliest followers, and has been influential in shaping the President's thinking on Big Tech as an adviser in the first two years of Mr Macron's presidency.

The decision by the world's biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Mr Macron, who wants to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online.

So far, Facebook has cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.

Following a meeting between Mr Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs, and Mr O last week, the social media company has extended this cooperation to hate speech. "This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally," Mr O said on Tuesday. "It's really important, they're doing it only for France."

Facebook declined to comment.

STRONG SIGNAL

It is a strong signal in terms of regulation. Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it's now on the same level as terrorism. 

MS SONIA CISSE, a counsel at law firm Linklaters.

"It is a strong signal in terms of regulation," said Ms Sonia Cisse, a counsel at law firm Linklaters, adding that it was a world first. "Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it's now on the same level as terrorism."

With Facebook's latest move, France is now a clear front runner in the quest to regulate big social media outlets, and other platforms might follow suit, said Ms Cisse.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook to share hate speech data with French courts'. Print Edition | Subscribe