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).