Top Internet Companies Agree To Vague Notice & Takedown Rules For 'Hate Speech' In The EU

from the who-defines-what-hate-speech-is dept

It's easy to say that "hate speech" is bad and that we, as a society, shouldn't tolerate it. But, reality is a lot more complicated than that, which is why we're concerned about various attempts to ban or stifle "hate speech." In the US, contrary to what many believe to be true, "hate" speech is still protected speech under the First Amendment. In Europe, that's often not the case, and hate speech bans are more common. But, as we've noted, while it seems like a no brainer to be against hate speech, the vagueness in what counts as "hate speech" allows that term to be expanded over and over again, such that laws against hate speech are now regularly used for government censorship over the public saying things the government doesn't like.

So consider me quite concerned about the news out of the EU that the EU Commission has convinced all the big internet platform companies -- Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft -- to agree to remove "hate speech" within 24 hours.
Upon receipt of a valid removal notification, the IT Companies to review such requests against their rules and community guidelines and where necessary national laws transposing the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA, with dedicated teams reviewing requests.

The IT Companies to review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary.

In addition to the above, the IT Companies to educate and raise awareness with their users about the types of content not permitted under their rules and community guidelines. The use of the notification system could be used as a tool to do this.
In other words, it sounds a lot like these companies have agreed to a DMCA-like notice-and-takedown regime for handling "hate speech." Let's be clear here: this will be abused and it will be abused widely. That's what happens when you give individuals the ability to remove content from platforms. Obviously, these companies are private companies and can set whatever policies they want on keeping up or removing content, but when they come to an agreement with the EU Commission about what they'll remove and how quickly, reasonable concerns should be raised about how this will work in practice, what definitions will be used to determine "hate speech," what kinds of appeals processes there will be and more. And none of that is particularly clear.

And, of course, very few people will raise these issues upfront because no one wants to be seen as being in favor of hate speech. And that's the real problem. It's easy to create rules for censorship by saying it's just about "hate speech," since almost no one will stand up and complain about that. But that opens up the door to all sorts of abuse -- whether in how "hate speech" is defined, as well as in how the companies will actually handle the implementation. Two major human rights groups -- EDRi and Access Now have already withdrawn from the EU Commission forum discussing all of this in protest of how these rules were put together:
Today, on 31 May, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and Access Now delivered a joint statement on the EU Commission’s “EU Internet Forum”, announcing our decision not to take part in future discussions and confirming that we do not have confidence in the ill considered “code of conduct” that was agreed.
Their main concern was that the whole thing was set up directly between the EU Commission and the internet companies behind closed doors -- and when you're talking about issues that impact human rights and freedom of expression, that needs to be done openly and transparently.
In short, the “code of conduct” downgrades the law to a second-class status, behind the “leading role” of private companies that are being asked to arbitrarily implement their terms of service. This process, established outside an accountable democratic framework, exploits unclear liability rules for companies. It also creates serious risks for freedom of expression as legal but controversial content may well be deleted as a result of this voluntary and unaccountable take down mechanism.
I recognize why many people may cheer on this move, thinking that it's a way to stop "bad stuff" from happening online, but beware the actual consequences of setting up an opaque process with a vague standard for pressuring platforms to censor content based on notices from angry people. If you don't think this will be abused in dangerous ways, you haven't been paying attention to the last two decades on the internet.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 8:45am

    Criticizing police could be hate speech

    Did you see that Louisiana passed a law saying police officers will now be a protected class and will be covered under hate crimes?
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/26/louisianas-blue-lives-matter-bi ll-just-became-law/

    So how long will it be until criticizing police becomes labeled hate speech and removed?
    Granted, Louisiana is in the US and we're talking about EU law, but still.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:27am

      Re: Criticizing police could be hate speech

      Contempt of Cop now officially a law. Good to know!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techie1 (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 2:34pm

      Re: Criticizing police could be hate speech

      “This, thought Winston, was the most frightening aspect of the party regime—that it could obliterate memory, turn lies into Truth and alter the Past …”

      George Orwell 1984.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 2:53pm

      Re: Criticizing police could be hate speech

      Well of course, I mean it's not like they already enjoy significant legal benefits above and beyond what members of the public enjoy. If anything they are at a disadvantage under the eyes of the law, and clearly they need the extra protection to bring them at least to the level of legal protection that members of the public are covered by, for the sake of legal equality.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 8:53am

    Great news for Unemployment Rate

    Just think of how many people Google will have to hire - just for Erdogan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 8:53am

    I think we need a group of intelligent people to sit down any time a new bill or law is proposed and see just how much they can stretch, bend and abuse it. That should give everyone an idea at what WILL happen, not what MAY happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 8:59am

      Re:

      Do you really think that the bureaucrats and politicians do not see the possibility for abuse, and how they can use it to further their own agendas? They say whatever will keep them in power, including claiming to support freedom and tolerance, while working as hard as they can to impose their own authoritarian views on everybody else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:09am

    "Hate speech" is vague. If I say that Hillary Clinton is a criminal and belongs in jail or Donald Trump is an ignorant, blow hard and shouldn't hold any political office, does that qualify as "hate speech"? Some people think anything bad said about Obama is hate speech.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:16am

    The main danger in outlawing hate speech is...

    The main danger in outlawing hate speech is any speech the ruling class doesn't like can be deemed hate speech and political opponents punished for it. Any speech outside the societal norms could be deemed hate speech and banned as well. So people will be afraid to speak out and question the status quo thus slowing down good change, maybe even more so than stifling bad change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:20am

      Re: The main danger in outlawing hate speech is...

      Additionally, what political favors did these companies win for themselves by agreeing to be the political watch dogs?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 12:44pm

      Re: The main danger in outlawing hate speech is...

      'The main danger in outlawing hate speech is any speech the ruling class doesn't like can be deemed hate speech and political opponents punished for it. -AC

      'That's a feature, not a bug.' -Politicians

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:40am

    i would be all for 'hate speech', except there is no such thing: there is hate, there is speech, that some speech is hateful is TOTALLY between the ears of the listeners...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wickedsmack (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:49am

    Is this how it starts...?

    When historians look back from their police state future where everything is censored and everything offensive has been removed from everything, will this agreement be what they point to that starts the snowball?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:52am

      Re: Is this how it starts...?

      Yes, it will be like the movie Demolition Man where you will be issued demerits for hate speech.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:29am

      Re: Is this how it starts...?

      they can never be able to censor everything let alone offensive stuff its next to impossible, this agreement is doomed to fail, we will never be a police state no matter how much they want us to be

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:48am

      Re: Is this how it starts...?

      "will this agreement be what they point to that starts the snowball?"

      No, of course not. Historians won't exist. Revisionists will.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:50am

    Considering the stunning success Facebook has achieved in telling what's art from what's porn I foresee comedy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:51am

    Yeah, this sounds like something that would make Hitler proud. Isn't it funny when people adopt the methods of those they claim to oppose?

    Yep... it's OK for you to be yourself--as long as you agree with me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      We are fast approaching a conformist society. Look how mean and hateful people react to other people or ideas they disagree with. There is no better place to see this than in today's political climate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 10:11am

    Google circa 1999 is rolling in its grave over Google circa 2016. I understand economic incentives must've been involved behind the scenes, but this is still a framework of censorship that will likely only serve to make terrorism worse. Ostracize new groups of people whose every political stance is arbitrarily accused of being hate speech. The only thing this will end up accomplishing productively is reducing the likelihood of a mass panic based on arbitrarily-labeled hate speech. A niche scenario and most definitely not one that justifies mass censorship.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 10:24am

    Remember folks...

    All "Hate Speech" is just speech you don't agree with.

    If you are okay with your country doing this, then I hope you burn because you are literally asking to be burned! And who would deny such a request? We all know the government won't... in fact no request necessary, they will burn you just because thy need a good laugh from time to time.

    Enjoy your tyranny... it's going to be real ride!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 10:25am

    This is troubling. The EU could use this as the basis for removing hate groups from any website, social media, email service or even removing hate group websites. Every time a new law or tool for removing content online, individuals, companies, corporations and government abuses it in such a manner, testing those same laws to see what they can get away with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:12am

    Some people cannot apply the same logic with roles reversed.

    Kim Davis regards criticism of her views as hate speech, but is completely blind to how her religious views of gays might be similarly perceived.

    I imagine that officials, law enforcement agents and judges may find themselves similarly challenged.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 12:24am

      Re: Some people cannot apply the same logic with roles reversed.

      "Kim Davis regards criticism of her views as hate speech, but is completely blind to how her religious views of gays might be similarly perceived."

      In her case, it was more her actions than her speech that brought that criticism. Nobody would have minded so much if the hateful bigot had either done her job or allowed someone else to do it for her. It was the refusal to grant a federally approved status to a group she hated that was the sticking point.

      But, I generally agree with what you're saying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:17am

    What about when Scientology posts hate comments or uploads videos hating on other religions or people? Will they take down that content too? LOLS

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:37am

    No doubt this is going to be used to censor all the posts about the bang up job the EU's is doing on immigration, and well, any other policy they screw up royally. The two things they are doing, setting themselves up for a Streisand effect that approaches that of a mega tsunami levels, and hiding the resentment that is leading to the rise of the right, will come back to bite them in the end.

    I say good on them, let them hide their heads in the sand, cover their ears, yell I can't hear you, and force all the hate speech underground where they can never monitor it.

    This reminds me of something ... oh yeah, now I remember ... it's kind of like attention seeking attorney generals and police departments forcing Craig's list to de-list prostitution, and now that we have zero prostitution in the United States, I feel so much safer. /sarc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    silverscarcat (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:39am

    This is why...

    #IStandForHateSpeech was trending yesterday.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:42am

    You could start to write in code. If they can't prove it's hate speech will they remove it anyway?
    Example: "Broccoli ice cream" could mean "This sucks hard". Could use a simple userscript or extension to automatically encode and decode (if you have the key).

    Guess it's time to update my bot to send lots of complaints that politicians are actively using hate speech on their social media. Mark randomly or everything as hate speech. Lets see how they like it to be censored.

    The people responsible, I want to see them burn alive. That's how pissed off I am. Could see myself smile while they scream in agony from the flames.
    Would infecting them with a deadly virus be more painful? We could use them to find out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 1 Jun 2016 @ 12:51pm

    So how soon until Google starts deleting all the videos that show Muslims and immigrants in a bad light from YouTube?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 2:11pm

    That slope is getting slipery by the minute

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 2:12pm

    Zero chance this will be abused:SARCASM OFF

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Jun 2016 @ 2:33pm

    'It is legal to be critical of the following, and ONLY the following groups/beliefs:'

    1 - "They're nothing but ignorant hicks."

    2 - "Just a pack of bigoted assholes."

    3 - "They're revolting, absolutely disgusting."

    4 - "Their ideas are reprehensible, and will lead only to suffering."

    5 - "They're nothing but a cult, and a dangerous one at that."

    Which of the above are 'hate speech', and which are statements of opinion? Does your opinion change if I told you the above statements were made...

    1A - Against someone who prefers to live with as little tech as possible.
    1B - Against someone living in a trailer-park.

    2A - By the KKK against people intolerant of their stance on race.
    2B - Against the KKK for their stance on race.

    3A - By a same-sex couple against someone protesting equal rights.
    3B - Against a same-sex couple for, well... existing.

    4A - By a religious individual against an atheist.
    4B - Against a religious individual by an atheist.

    5A - By a Scientologist against someone who believes different.
    5B - Against a scientologist for what they believe.

    One person's 'hate speech' is another person's 'statement of opinion', so the idea that you can trim out 'hate speech' without impacting free speech fails from the start. You want to deal with 'hate speech', you counter it with more speech and social responses like refusing to have anything to do with someone so long as they hold a belief that you find reprehensible.

    Doing it the 'legal' way will just end up making criticism of certain groups, claims or topics 'illegal'; it doesn't actually do anything to address them, it just brushes them under the rug to fester.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Jun 2016 @ 6:03am

      Re: 'It is legal to be critical of the following, and ONLY the following groups/beliefs:'

      Please can we make this First Word?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Being Critical, 2 Jun 2016 @ 12:08pm

      Re: 'It is legal to be critical of the following, and ONLY the following groups/beliefs:'

      I hate it when the news lady says, 'the critics are calling that controversial,' just for an example. Stating something as though anonymously protected 'critics' without having to say who their phony fabricated critics are entices me to say something like. 'shut your asshole you lying bitch.' I have been getting really steamed latey when I want to get some news and all I hear and see is the squabbling going on with the purely questionable candidates for presidency. I can't even sigh hard enough to get on with it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2016 @ 5:42pm

    Considering that the internet has been around for over two decades, why is the EU just now getting around to addressing online "hate speech"? Why the sudden urgency?

    Because the Syrian refugee crisis and related issues, such as the resulting epidemic of sexual assaults perpetrated by the young male immigrants, is undoubtedly the chief driving force behind this measure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Syrian Hate Exodus, 2 Jun 2016 @ 11:46am

      Re:

      EU, don't be afraid. Send those rapists back to where they came from in a boat with a sufficient hole in it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Every Human with compassion has resolve., 2 Jun 2016 @ 11:52am

        Re: Re:

        If those fuckers had raped my girlfriend or sister or wife or aunt or mother, I would be hunting them down for the rest of my life. Now whether or not that is hate speech, you can tell I am telling you the truth.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 2 Jun 2016 @ 11:39pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Not hate speech for wishing revenge upon a hypothetical criminal who wronged you personally. If you had said do the same to all immigrants/refugees/Syrians/Muslims/whatever without them having done anything wrong to deserve it, that may have been hate speech. It's not really a hard distinction to grasp.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Emanuel, 2 Jun 2016 @ 12:18am

    While I do agree that this is gonna raise problems with free speech, Facebook already forbidds "Hate-speech content that attacks people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease"
    EU is only merely holding facebook to its own rules.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2016 @ 4:19am

    There sure is a lot of hate speech in this thread.

    When is Techdirt going to get on board with the program?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Jun 2016 @ 6:02am

    Has anyone considered starting a countdown clock for the first such takedown over slagging off IPR or an organisation? I bash copyright abuse all the time and have already been called an extremist over it. If it happens to me I'll be sure to let you know.

    Bear also in mind that Green Party MPs are being surveilled over here. How long till their tweets, etc., get removed for advocating against fracking? Whether you agree with them or not that ought to be protected speech.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/28/police-anti-extremism-unit-monitoring-green-p arty-caroline-lucas-sian-berry

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mother Frackers, 2 Jun 2016 @ 12:28pm

      Re:

      Speaking out against those fracker fuckers who are indeed poisoning the water and land so the people get heat and the government gets the oil will land you on an eco-terrorist watch list as certainly as I am calling them Mother fracker fuckers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    US Citizen Can, 2 Jun 2016 @ 11:38am

    Don't tread on me unless you want a black eye.

    Its our right to hate and our right to love. We can apply bias and prejudice where we deem rightly so. If I am wronged by a person, group, corporation, or government, its my right to speak out in whatever tone I want. You are not my Mother. Period(.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2016 @ 12:06pm

      Re: Don't tread on me unless you want a black eye.

      No, no, no. The government will tell you who you can speak out against and who you can't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Paranoia, 2 Jun 2016 @ 12:22pm

        Re: Re: Don't tread on me unless you want a black eye.

        Yeah, like they're sending me spam whenever they want to know if I am still home and make a note when their spam was officially deleted from my email account. :o)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2016 @ 4:37pm

    And they say New World Order isn't real and 9/11 was done by cavemen...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 5 Jun 2016 @ 9:37am

    EU

    Simple question: If an American tweets something that is legal in the US but illegal in the EU, will it be banned?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Irene, 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:32pm

    In europe there is already a DMCA-like notice-and-takedown, included in Article 14 pf the e-commerce Directive, and applies horizontally to all types of illegal content. Not only copyright, but also counterfeit, unsafe products, hate speech, defamation, illegal sale of weapons... Key is, that it is illegal following national law. National laws can also divert (what is illegal in Spain might not be illegal in Germany). But hate speech is illegal if covered under the definition of the Framework Directove you mention. Of course the problem is that companies will check it against their ToS, not against the law...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer
Anonymous number for texting and calling from Hushed. $25 lifetime membership, use code TECHDIRT25
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.