Facebook Allowing French Censors To Embed With The Company, And Maybe That's A Good Thing?

from the this-should-be-interesting dept

While much of the attention around French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on Monday was focused on the so-called “Paris Call” agreement on cybersecurity, it was also an occasion for the French President to announce a plan to effectively embed regulators with Facebook to learn how to better censor the platform:

The French president announced on Monday a six-month partnership with Facebook aimed at figuring out how the European country should police hate speech on the social network.

As part of the cooperation — the first time that Facebook has teamed up with national politicians to hammer out such a contentious issue — both sides plan to meet regularly between now and May, when the European election is due to be held. They will focus on how the French government and Facebook can work together to remove harmful content from across the digital platform, without specifying the outcome of their work or if it would result in binding regulation.

Facebook’s press people have pushed back on the claim that this is a program to “embed” government censors within Facebook, saying it’s more just about showing them how Facebook manages content moderation:

It’s a pilot program of a more structured engagement with the French government so that both sides can better understand the other’s challenges in dealing with the issue of hate speech online. The program will allow a team of regulators, chosen by the Elysee, to familiarize [itself] with the tools and processes set up by Facebook to fight against hate speech. The working group will not be based in one location but will travel to different Facebook facilities around the world, with likely visits to Dublin and California. The purpose of this program is to enable regulators to better understand Facebook’s tools and policies to combat hate speech and, for Facebook, to better understand the needs of regulators.

While many people may have the instinctual reaction that having government regulators coming in to see how to “better” censor speech on your platform is inherently a problem, one hopes that the end result of this is influencing things in the other direction. A bad outcome would be French regulators deciding that this experience gives them enough info to craft impossible regulations to wave digital magic wands and “make the bad stuff disappear.” But a more optimistic argument would be that it gives these French regulators a chance to get some first hand knowledge of (1) how seriously Facebook takes this issue (don’t laugh, because the company absolutely does take this issue seriously now, even if it didn’t in the past) and (2) just how impossible it is to do a particularly good job at it (even as Facebook has gotten much better in the past year).

So while I’m always a little concerned about the idea of having government regulators come into a company when the upfront stated objective is about more content moderation demands, it certainly would be beneficial for French officials not to be so incredibly ignorant about how content moderation at scale truly works, and why the easy solutions they always seem to propose won’t help (and could make problems significantly worse).

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Comments on “Facebook Allowing French Censors To Embed With The Company, And Maybe That's A Good Thing?”

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Bud Wiser says:

You're "always a little concerned"? Freudian reveal: "a little".

I’ve long said that you’re for merging state and corporations, so I take it that way — and your denial as automatic, adds no information. (But yes, to forestall the inevitable gainsaying: IF anyone tries to refute my statement, then I have, logically, added information to the fray.)

Anyhoo, larger topic: WE are living in the
building period of a dystopian TOTAL
surveillance system, which Masnick appears
to promote (esp by asserting that
corporations have total control over Section
230 "platforms"), and very few here appear to at
all worry about the key corporations, GOOGLE
and Facebook gaining power. So I’ve long railed. I’m one of the protagonists in the dystopian novels, and you kids are mostly NPCs.

nae such says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:Member when you promised to leave forever

i get(or google translate does) repaire gigantesque as gigantic den. is this a joke i’m missing?

i get gigantesque menteur for gigantic liar. if you were looking for ‘din’ google spits out:

le vacarme – din, noise, racket, hubbub, row, blare

le tapage – noise, fuss, uproar, disturbance, din, racket

le chahut – heckling, uproar, rumpus, bedlam, din, rowdiness

l’ boucan – racket, din, row, hullabaloo, shindy, rumpus

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Back in time...

Really? I must have missed the classes on French History where they had Political Officers.

It’s the same model. Yeah, the French regulators are “concerned” about it.

They’re putting Political Officers at Facebook to ensure only Correct Thought is allowed to be seen in France. The comparison doesn’t just “work”, it’s the basis for how such institutionalized “correction” is set up.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Back in time...

We’ve obviously stopped teaching basic Civics. Probably around 1970.

The ignorance most people display of what cops are allowed to do, how an arrest works, and the basics of the court system is incredible.

The number of former tenants I’ve evicted that think the court is going to appoint them an attorney is incredible.

Anonymous Coward says:

You can't be serious

No, Mike, it’s not a good thing. Such a corporate-government partnership might be essentially harmless in the free-speech USA, but let’s not forget that in much of the rest of the world, and this includes France, so called “hate speech” can be a serious felony resulting in years in prison. French authorities will not just be involved in censoring people who mis-speak, they’ll be prosecuting them, and doing it with Facebook’s assistance and sanction. Don’t think this won’t happen, because it can and it will. France, like most of Europe, has a long history of jailing people who dare to express the wrong thoughts, and in recent years many more types of forbidden speech have been added to an ever-growing list. Embedding government enforcers in Facebook would be laying the groundwork for an Orwellian nightmare. Anyone who believes in the concept of free speech could never call this a “good thing.”



Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You can't be serious

If you had just taken the time to look at the links posted in that comment, you’d see that:

A. Various types of speech are illegal in France
B. penalties can be severe
C. French authorities actively and routinely prosecute such speech-criminals

Even Marine Le Pen, who would be President of France today if not for Emmanuel Macron, is being prosecuted for posting pictures on Twitter after losing the election.


Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The question still stands: How can you know, with the absolute certainty of a divine supernatural being, that such prosecutions will happen “with Facebook’s assistance and sanction”? What can you offer in terms of irrefutable, undeniable foreknowledge that will guarantee Facebook’s future assistance in such prosecutions?

Anonymous Coward says:

This could also be useful in educating Facebook in how to communicate with these regulators. If they can identify their preconceptions and figure out how to explain the realities to them in a manner they fully understand, they can then take that knowledge and bake it right into their own messaging to other regulators and even users in general.

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