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

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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.”

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