Never Enough: EU Demands Social Media Companies Do The Impossible Even Faster
from the give-them-an-inch dept
The road to this story has been paved with absolutely dreadful decisions made in Europe over the past few years. As several courts and governments adopting the general idea that social media sites are somehow responsible for content posted by individual users, they likewise developed the stance that these sites must somehow review and remove “hate speech” — as vague and amorphous a term as there could possibly be. As such, the EU essentially demanded that sites like Twitter and Facebook act as content police for their platforms, with nary a care given to the insurmountable nature of the request, nor the actual moral viability of vicarious assignment of guilt. In what some describe as a no-choice situation, Google, Facebook and Twitter — among others — agreed to an equally vague notice and takedown regime for hate speech in the EU.
Choice or not, it was never going to work. Monitoring and responding to hate speech designations, while affording those accused of hate speech anything resembling a fair and honest review, is laughably beyond these companies’ ability. Likewise, whatever those sites were actually able to accomplish in removing truly vile speech from their platforms was never going to be enough for the EU. Now that this door has been opened, rather than these sites standing firm and making the argument for why opening that door was ridiculous, we’re too far down the road. It was therefore perfectly predictable that the EU was going to come back at these very same sites with more demands, in this case that these companies fulfill the EU’s request for the impossible even faster.
Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google have all pledged to do more. In May 2016, they promised to review a majority of hate speech flagged by users within 24 hours and to remove any illegal content. But the European Commission, EU’s top regulator, said Thursday they are still failing to act fast enough. It said it would pass laws allowing the EU to impose punishments on companies that fail to act.
“The situation is not sustainable: in more than 28% of cases, it takes more than one week for online platforms to take down illegal content,” said Mariya Gabriel, the EU’s top official in charge of the digital economy and society.
Look, maybe I’m the weird one here, but I’m supremely impressed that these sites are able to respond to the vast majority of these takedown requests in under a week. Having only 28% of these requests be honored in a timespan of more than a week surpasses how effective I thought the sites would be at all of this. The question appears to be this: exactly how quickly does the EU want these sites to respond?
Because if a week or so, often less, isn’t enough, what will be? You can bet that if these sites got it down to 3 days, the EU would demand it be done in 2. If 2, then 1. If 1? Well, then perhaps internet companies should become proficient in censoring speech the EU doesn’t like before it ever appears. That’s already being suggested, by the way.
The Commission said it will consider implementing new laws to tackle the problem if the online platforms fail to “take swift action over the coming months.” It said it wants the companies to invest more in detecting of hate speech, and work with trusted reviewers who are trained to know what constitutes hate speech.
So much for these social media companies placating the EU. Once they opened that door, it should have been obvious the EU would come barging through it.