France Says Facebook’s Self-Regulation on Hate Speech Is Limited

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. and other social media’s self-regulation is limited, not enforceable and lacks credibility, France’s government said on Friday in a report released hours before President Emmanuel Macron and founder Mark Zuckerberg meet in Paris.

The report, published Friday, is based on the observations of government officials who embedded themselves within Facebook in January and February. The government says new regulation should be applied to large social media, and make them accountable “for protecting the integrity their members, protect users from abuse by other members and third-party attempts to manipulate the platform,” according to the report.

“Social media companies need regulation like banks, they are systemic actors,” said Digital Affairs Minister Cedric O. “The biggest social media must have internal regulation, controlled by an outside regulator,” he said in an interview.

France Says Facebook’s Self-Regulation on Hate Speech Is Limited

Although only recommendations, the report comes at a sensitive time with Zuckerberg meeting Macron as part of the French President’s broader “Tech for Good” initiative, begun in 2018.

This initiative includes a “Christchurch call” with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The two leaders plan to co-chair a meeting of global leaders and technology company executives on May 15 as they aim to curb the promotion of violent extremism online.

Read more about the ”Paris call for trust and security in cyberspace”

Following the mosque attacks in Christchurch that left 51 people dead, Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube faced worldwide condemnation for failing to take down quickly a video live-streamed by the alleged gunman.

The report will serve as a basis for redefining how the France deals with hate speech, according to the Digital Minister’s office. France is eyeing an upgrade to its hate speech laws this year and its regulator’s role too. A draft bill has been filed in Parliament and may be expanded with regulation obligations.

The government may seek to regulate social media companies as soon as this year, Cedric O.’s office said, adding that no decision had been made at this point. The independent radio and television regulator CSA could have its powers upgraded as soon in order to regulate social media companies, the minister said.

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