French Government Looking To Copy Germany's Disastrous Anti-Hate Speech Legislation

from the anything-you-can-do,-we-can-do-lousier dept

More well-intentioned lawmaking is resulting in terrible legislation proposals. France is looking to Germany for guidance for the first time in a long time, thanks to its Prime Minister’s desire to regulate “hate speech” on the internet. Edourd Philippe has apparently overlooked the disastrous roll out of Germany’s hate speech law, which has resulted in a steady stream of embarrassments since its inception.

During a visit to the National Museum of the History of Immigration, Philippe said he intends to fight racist and anti-Semitic content on social networks, to launch an Internet portal to inform and help victims of hate, racism and discrimination, and set up training sessions for teachers to manage and prevent offensive remarks in schools.

He also plans to set up a national response team to assist teachers and field workers confronted with conflict situations.

“French law should be amended to strengthen the obligations of detection, reporting and deletion of illegal content on the Internet,” he said in a speech.


In outlining his plans, Philippe said the government is considering following Germany’s lead with heavy fines for companies slow to react. He also mentioned the possibility of closing accounts with repetitive and massive dissemination of hate content.

This is a remarkable turnaround for Philippe, who just two months earlier was arguing in favor of anti-Semitic speech on behalf of an influential French author.

France’s prime minister said he backed the publication of anti-Semitic essays by the author Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, also known as Celine, despite concern from the country’s Jewish community.

Edouard Philippe said the essays, published under the pseudonym Louis-Ferdinand Celine between 1937 and 1941, could not be ignored, though the publication would have to be carefully watched.

The January version of Philippe said anti-Semitic works could be published, accompanied by more speech — the companion publication of a “scientific style” explainer that would hopefully deter readers from assuming the French government or a majority of the French population supported the author’s views.

It seems more speech is no longer the answer. Philippe wants to directly regulate the internet, holding service providers responsible for user-generated content. If successful, France will enjoy a new revenue stream: hefty fines collected from social media platforms for failing to nuke content fast enough. Once this cash IV is hooked up to French coffers, demands for removal will increase, turn-time for removals shortened, and mission creep will set in.

Philippe expressed his concern about the perceived proliferation of hate speech with a statement that inadvertently supports arguments made by service providers about the impossibility of these content removal mandates.

“What annoys me is that nowadays, it seems easier to remove a pirated video of a football [soccer] game than anti-Semitic remarks.”

Interesting. It seems not all that long ago, government reps and the lobbyists who keep them well-maintained were complaining about how difficult it was to remove pirated content. Government officials tend believe removing pirated content should be as easy as removing child porn, even though one’s much easier to spot and has a database of known child porn to compare content to. With copyrighted content, it’s not always clear the stuff targeted is infringing, and issues not present in child porn — like fair use or public interest — complicate matters.

The problems with identifying targeted content are only exacerbated when platforms are tasked with identifying and purging things like “terrorist content,” “hate speech,” and “fake news.” None of these concepts are distinctly definable and a patchwork of contradictory laws makes compliance a logistical nightmare. What tends to happen is preemptive removal by platforms, which has resulted in the purging of satirical posts and content that is, at best, slightly offensive, rather than being the invective governments claim they’re targeting.

PM Philippe is making this push despite hate crime numbers continuing to drop in France. The Prime Minister offers only ethereal suppositions in support of his legislative desires.

Philippe said that although the number of hate incidents may have dropped in 2017 for the second year in a row, the statistics do not account for the “surge of hatred that is expressed daily on the Internet.”

You can’t quantify what you can’t clearly define. And if you can’t clearly define it, you probably shouldn’t regulate it. If France has a problem with hate speech, the corrective measures should target hateful citizens, not service providers. But it really shouldn’t target this speech with increased regulation. It should do as Philippe suggested only two months ago: greet hate speech with more speech, because this is the only route guaranteed to prevent the speech-targeting laws from becoming tools of government oppression.

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Comments on “French Government Looking To Copy Germany's Disastrous Anti-Hate Speech Legislation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Is anyone able to explain why it is that when there is something absolutely useless or disastrous or in particular, gonna be detrimental to the public and it fails to actually come into being, the world and his wife want it enacted? Change, then, to something that would be worth having by everyone and, if it fails just once to become law, usually because it would help the people more than authority, it’s never heard of again?

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