Zuckerberg Tells Angela Merkel Facebook Is On The Hate Speech Censorship Case
from the dislike dept
A brief review of the available record shows that Facebook and Germany have always had something of a contentious relationship. Past examples of this have included Germany trying to influence Facebook’s really dumb “real name” policy, Germany trying to get Facebook to drop its facial recognition database, and even Germany attempting to outlaw the “Like” button. The context in most of these instances is a German government perhaps still rather touchy with a sordid, if decades-old, history and its overcorrection on matters of privacy and speech. The latest is no different.
At a recent UN summit, Mark Zuckerberg apparently had a discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Facebook will start getting involved in policing racism and hate speech on the social media network.
“I think we have to work on that,” Zuckerberg told Merkel during their meeting on Saturday on the fringe of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York.
Facebook has been much criticized in Germany for not doing more to shut down hate speech on its network during the refugee crisis, with Justice Minister Heiko Maas a leading voice calling for better moderation on the site. At a meeting with Maas earlier in September, when the minister demanded faster procedures to get hate comments removed, Facebook agreed to set up a working group to look at the problem.
It’s the age-old question on matters of free speech: how do we handle speech the public generally finds unacceptable? And, to be fair, it’s not the easiest question to discuss, because free speech advocates find themselves within the ranks of some truly horrible people who say some truly horrible things. Racism and bigotry is, of course, not acceptable as a matter of morality and public discourse. But should it be hidden by corporate interests at the request of the government of a free people?
No, it should not. And, when we slide emotion to the side, it’s quite easy to see why not. First, on matters of comments that involve threats or calls to violence, we already have laws on the books (as I assume Germany does as well) to deal with that. Indeed, rather than disappearing the comments from social media, law enforcement would likely want to have those comments on hand should a crime for incitement or menacing have been committed. For charges of racism and hate speech, on the other hand, I would argue that the need for exposure of the bigot outweighs any, if there is any, harm done by the speech. Put another way: if there are racist assbags in the world, do you want to allow them to identify themselves, or shall we allow social media sites to put up a veil so that we can all pretend that everything is right with the world?
Zuckerberg is allowed to do with Facebook as the site’s corporate interests please, but as an American leading a company that can only continue to benefit the world through the free exchange of ideas if the site rests on the principles of free speech, I would hope he might be cautious in what promises he might make that violate those principles.