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.


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:43am

    Impending Efficiency by legislative order

    Like the 'war on drugs', this will be just as effective. In the mean time government funding will enjoy a spike as the revenues from fines skyrocket.

    Wonder what they will spend their windfall on?

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

  • identicon
    ek, 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:12pm

    A silly response to a silly idea

    Normally, I am opposed to corporate sovereignty but in this case, the regulators are being pretty silly. If the EU wants the service providers to do the impossible, why not show them what it means to do it right?

    The big providers already have IP geolocation capabilities. So, for a single day redirect all connection requests originating from the EU to a page that says, "the only effective and fair way to block questionable content in the EU is to block all content from the EU", or something to that effect.

    As the article points out, a quick response that takes down some content will be abused. Moderation without a proper vetting process that includes the party that posted the content a defense has historically been completely unfair.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:15pm

    "It said it wants the companies to invest more in detecting of hate speech"

    We want accolades for making stupid demands & we want you to pay for our program. Who do they think they are an **AA?

    Perhaps it is time to stop pretending that technology works like in tv shows, movies, books. That these are difficult issues & every time you push for something 4 more step up and want their special rights upheld as well.

    If you think this is so fscking easy, build your own.
    Spend your money to make it.
    Spend your money to police it.

    While all the companies want to play ball, you're pushing them to the point where they will decide you are not worth it. You threaten to pass laws so you can demand payments for not jumping high enough... how will you react the day the FB login page says we've left the EU because their demands exceed the value in allowing you to connect with the world.

    This isn't something simple like if the word Nazi appears delete it... that would be easy.
    You expect the company to read & look at the context of every post to see if it magically crosses a blurry line.
    If they take down the wrong post they get attacked, if they don't take down the post they get attacked, if they don't magically do it in 12 seconds they get attacked and fined.

    You can not legislate your way a better world.
    You can not keep everyone happy.
    You can not pretend there is nothing bad in the world.

    Perhaps let people learn that they have the power to not read "hate speech". That because a comment offended them, doesn't make it criminal.

    But its much easier to go after the tech companies for not solving your peoples problems, because the lot of you only know how to promise the impossible but no idea how to deliver it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:21pm

    Regulations

    There are usually 3 outcomes.

    1. Outcome in Favor of Business, which tends to get politicians donations and kickbacks.
    2. Outcome in Favor of fines and fee, which tends to get politicians and agencies money to spend in government.
    3. Outcome in favor of citizens, which tends to get politicians little or no recognition, little or no donations, little or no kickbacks.

    What are the chances of the citizens winning?

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

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:35pm

    "Because if a week or so, often less, isn't enough, what will be?"

    Tim, the Tech-Savvy Honorable-And-Infallible Ms. Theresa May has already answered your question... 2 hours...

    sheesh... get with the program. Everyone knows that 2 hours of hate speech of a single voice on the internet is more than the sensitive European public can stomach.

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

    /s

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:48pm

    Harken ye back to the good ole days...

    When any member of the public who wished to be heard had to write a letter to the editor and mail it - and *if* it was acceptable pablum for the masses, the properly edited and approved news outlet might publish it.

    So, if the services change the submit button to send a copy to the "trusted reviewers" and *they* get to decide what gets published or rejected, all will be well again.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:23pm

    Why bother with middleman at all? Just make everyone get brain filters to stop any undesirable thoughts from leaking out.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:41pm

    NON-tech trying to teach TECH what can be done??

    Who thinks NON TECH people can decide HOW something can be done??
    NO knowledge, and NOT asking professionals..

    1. I mentioned long ago the amounts that are running around and the NSA/FBI/CIA all found out also..1 days DATA is like 5 years of work...

    2. HUMAN language is NOT always specific..

    3. HOW to FORCE things underground.. OLD DAYS, you could track/trace follow people in news papers..MONITOR them because they HAD TO HAVE other know where/when they were... What happens when you CLOSE access to Communication?? THEY FIND A WAY to communicate. Watching and monitoring IS HARDER.,.. this is someones way of HIDING something so we can say "IT ISNT HAPPENING", "WE DONT SEE IT".. DUH!..

    Lets try this insted..
    NO DECLARATION OF gender.. EVER..
    NOW you can not say you are male/female/it... We can all go to the same bathrooms.. we can All piss in the woods now.

    DOES IT DO ANYTHING?? NOPE, it just makes finding a DATE HARDER..

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:33am

      Re: NON-tech trying to teach TECH what can be done??

      You find your dates by checking which bathroom people use or whether they piss in the woods?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 3:48pm

    Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

    States it's not monitoring but in response to user flags; removing entirely is no more problem technically than is the censoring, I mean "hiding" of comments done here.

    And you regulars have NO problem with MY comments being "hidden", now do you?

    So when it's mega-corporations Google and Facebook implementing exactly what Techdirt does and has done for years, WHAT is your objection actually based on?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 4:51pm

      Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

      When Google and Facebook lets its users decide what can't be immediately seen on their respective websites, you let us know.

      But to actually give you an answer, Google and Facebook can't actually do what you think Techdirt does because the two are different. What Techdirt does rightly is a spam filter, or a delay of your garbage because you spam it repeatedly through TOR IP addresses that are regularly flagged for being a source of spam. What the EU demands is the complete removal of specific material, before it appears at all, with no mechanisms in place to ensure it is actually illegitimate.

      But you'd know this if you bothered to read anything, which you proudly claim to refuse to do. Nice going.

      Have a DMCA vote.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:33pm

        Re: Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

        >>> When Google and Facebook lets its users decide what can't be immediately seen on their respective websites, you let us know.

        WHO is "us"? This is yet another AC who appears to speak for the site, meaning it's a chicken administrator.

        Says right up there: "In May 2016, they promised to review a majority of hate speech flagged by users within 24 hours and to remove any illegal content." -- You toss in "immediate" as a qualification, while my point is that Techdirt "hides" comments supposedly in response to users.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:33pm

        Re: Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

        And further: You are flatly wrong that I meant spam, and indeed, that comment went in without hitting any filter. So why do you bring up the spam filter out of the blue?

        >>> But you'd know this if you bothered to read anything, which you proudly claim to refuse to do. Nice going.

        You clearly didn't understand my comment; I can't comment on whether read, but likely meaning your comprehension is near zero, where I only need to get the topic, always know where Techdirt's bias will end up.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

          Trying to revive the Shiva Ayyadurai movement by writing long consecutive replies, are we? The fact that you're butthurt about Shiva's campaign to take down the website hitting a roadblock comes as absolutely no surprise.

          The "immediate" qualification is precisely what your heroes at the RIAA, IFPI, etc. have been demanding for years: they want technology that magically identifies materials they think is illegitimate before it even appears. This has absolutely no user input, which is the difference between what Techdirt does and what the EU wants of social media companies. Techdirt flags spam. The EU flags whatever they consider undesirable. The latter is a lot harder to track and identify.

          Hell, the comparison between Techdirt and Facebook is ridiculously flawed to begin with. Facebook has millions of users, while Techdirt is often mocked by critics like you for its "falling Alexa ratings", suggesting that few users exist - and you love to claim that anyone who doesn't agree with you is a zombie commenter. Any percentage of report votes you get is going to be dwarfed by the number of report votes Facebook posts would have to receive to get noticed, because you'd have to get the attention of a lot more people on Facebook. It's a matter of scale, but RIAA fanboys like you have always been notoriously bad with numbers.

          But go ahead, keep using TOR in that midsection of America you revealed as your position. TOR is only used by pirates to escape scrutiny after all. Sage advice coming from you, pirate!

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:35pm

        Re: Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

        However, twice hit a block above, having the foresight to save the text, and/or perhaps the length filter.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 2:18pm

        Re: Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

        Really think Google and facebook DONT listen to people??
        Go ask China, go ask Israel, go ask the USA, Canada, and a BUNCH of other locations..
        They just D-Link the sites..They are there..but not listed..
        ALSO an adult can RESTRICT a child's listings also..

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:04pm

      Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

      There once was an out of the blue
      Who hated the process of due
      Each film that he'd paid
      Was DMCAed
      And shoved up his ass with a screw

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 29 Sep 2017 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

      Hmmm no, actually you are so obnoxious the rest of Techdirt quickly flags the drivel you wrote and it gets hidden. Got it? You are so obnoxious your posts are being voted into hiding by other people. Do I need to repeat it?

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

    • identicon
      Wyrm, 5 Oct 2017 @ 9:29am

      Re: Techdirt often does this in less than 15 minutes on MY comments!

      I'm a little late on this one, but here's your complimentary xkcd:
      https://xkcd.com/1357/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 3:51pm

    Theresa May ALREADY has this solved...

    #Necessary#

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

  • identicon
    TripMN, 29 Sep 2017 @ 6:04am

    This TOR dude is a bit annoying in his misunderstandings.

    Techdirt has a system where the users flag an automated process that minimizes the comment if it gets too many flags. The post doesn't go anywhere, isn't deleted, and on mobile (TD lite) it isn't even hidden so i have to wade thru all the junk. This only works because there are almost no consequences to doing a good or bad job of flagging posts.

    Requiring that posts be deleted and imposing hefty fines for not doing it correctly increases the necessary amount of highly trained scrutiny that must occur.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 6:58am

    pointless

    Love destroys hate, but love can't be legislated. Its a heart thing. Shutdown or overly censor Facebook and the like, and another site/app will be used in it's place. Where were these legislators when Napster was dismantled?

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

  • icon
    carlb (profile), 29 Sep 2017 @ 10:41am

    YouTube Removes Videos Showing Atrocities in Syria - The New York Times

    The platforms don't distinguish between taking down Da'esh propaganda videos and taking down journalistic videos denouncing the brutality of both Da'esh and the Syrian regime.

    www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/world/middleeast/syria-youtube-videos-isis.html

    Yuge difference.

    Syria is already the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. We don't need to allow platforms to add insult to those injuries by censoring what little news gets out.

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

  • identicon
    Rudyard Kipling, 29 Sep 2017 @ 6:30pm

    "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."

    It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
    To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
    "We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
    Unless you pay us cash to go away."

    And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
    And the people who ask it explain
    That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
    And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

    It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
    To puff and look important and to say: --
    "Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
    We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

    And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we've proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.

    It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
    For fear they should succumb and go astray;
    So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
    You will find it better policy to say: --

    "We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
    No matter how trifling the cost;
    For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
    And the nation that pays it is lost!"

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


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