Skip to main content

New EU legislation could force social media platforms to address hate speech

facebook stories on desktop tested sign
Panithan Fakseemuang / 123RF
Hate speech is being dealt a blow in Europe. On Tuesday, European Union ministers approved proposals that would force social media companies to address hateful content on their respective platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have come under fire overseas in recent months for their seemingly lax handling of both fake news and troubling posts, and now, the EU hopes that new legislation will help tackle this problem head on.

If the proposals pass, it would be the first time the EU takes such measures against hate speech, though the organization previously made clear that it was willing to go to such lengths to remove this kind of content. Back in December, the EU expressed its discontent with the ways in which American tech firms were handling (or not handling, as it were) xenophobic comments and videos, noting that they were willing to enact new laws if necessary. And now, it would appear that the time has come.

While the laws still need the approval of the EU Parliament before being officially enacted, it does not seem as though they will meet with much resistance. As Reuters points out, lawmakers have lobbied for social media firms to take on more responsibility in terms of monitoring content.

So how might that manifest itself? For one thing, the EU hopes the social networks will block videos that “feature hate speech, incitement to hatred, and content justifying terrorism,” according to Reuters. However, live streams (like Facebook Live or Periscope) would not be included under proposed rules — only videos stored within a platform would have to conform to these standards.

As Andrus Ansip, EU Commission vice president for the digital single market noted, “We need to take into account new ways of watching videos, and find the right balance to encourage innovative services, promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech in a better way.”

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook will make changes to combat hate speech
women in tech you should know mit sheryl sandberg 0  1

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the social network is working to become better at “finding and removing hateful content” amid criticism and a widespread ad boycott over the platform's past policies concerning hate speech. 

In a Facebook post published Tuesday, July 7, Sandberg acknowledged Facebook’s responsibility to combat hate speech. Sandberg said the company plans to meet with civil rights leaders to address these efforts. 

Read more
Social media platforms are finally acting like the mini-governments they are
Trump in front of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey stylized image

For years, companies such as Facebook and Twitter have taken a somewhat laissez-faire approach to moderating what's posted to their platforms. Even in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which underlined the enormous influence these platforms can have on politics, economics, and online discourse, social networks have largely relied on piecemeal efforts to stop malicious groups from abusing their platforms.

In the absence of any overarching and regularly enforced moderation policy, and by actively avoiding being “arbiters of truth,” these platforms have continued to fester, enabling hate speech and misinformation to run rampant.

Read more
It’s time for social media platforms to grow up
Twitter Fact Check

Last week was a big news week. The pandemic rolled on as the U.S. exceeded 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. Unemployment got worse. Minneapolis police started a national firestorm with the death in custody of a black man, George Floyd. And oh, by the way, the Chinese became more aggressive in Hong Kong and the economy continued to flounder despite baby steps toward reopening.

With that news backdrop, it was easy to miss President Donald Trump’s latest shots in an attack on social media networks -- specifically Twitter and Facebook.

Read more