EU threatens harsher rules, penalties on hate speech after Facebook meeting

This file photo taken on July 4, 2019 in Nantes shows the logo of the US online social media and social networking service, Facebook. (AFP)

A top EU official for digital policy warned Monday that big tech companies could face tougher rules and penalties in Europe if they failed to adequately curb hate speech and disinformation.

European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton remarks followed talks with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, who was in Brussels urging officials to not go too far in punishing platforms for carrying hate speech.

“If all the platforms operating on the European continent do not respect the conditions that I have just outlined, yes, we will be forced to intervene in a stricter way,” Breton told reporters.

But Breton, who leads up EU digital policy along with Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, warned that new legislation by the end of the year could be much tougher on big tech.

These new rules “can be binding to avoid this kind of abuse, because it is abusive, when totally illegal content is massively disseminated to our fellow citizens,” Breton said.

The former French finance minister said a proposal for a Digital Services Act by the end of the year could carry real consequences for companies like Facebook that had so far self-regulated.

In the meetings, the founder of the world’s biggest social media network that also owns Instagram and Whatsapp, emphasized the importance of better controlling hate speech and disinformation on platforms -- but without muzzling free speech.

He raised the topic with European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, a top Brussels official who became an outspoken critic of Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018.

Good regulation of hate speech would require a new type of regulator for the EU, Zuckerberg argued to Jourova.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:57 - GMT 06:57
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