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Ministry of Truth: Facebook Signs European Union Pledge To Suppress Loosely Defined ‘Hate Speech’ And Promote ‘Counter Narratives’

Published: May 31, 2016
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Source: Breitbart

 

The European Commission has today announced a partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in order to crack down on what it classes as “illegal hate speech” while “criminaliz[ing]” perpetrators and “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the European Union favours.

A press release from the Commission this morning claims the new initiative has been set up “to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally”.

The move has been branded “Orwellian” by Members of the European Parliament, and digital freedom groups have already pulled out of any further discussions with the Commission, calling the new policy “lamentable”.

The unelected, executive branch of the European Union (EU) released a “Code of Conduct” today that “includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe” developed “together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (‘the ITcompanies’)” who have “signed up”.

The commitments include “educat[ing] and rais[ing] awareness with their users” and building a “network” of “trusted reporters” to flag unwanted content. Facebook and Twitter are to provide “regular training to their staff on current societal developments” and work more closely with national governments and “their law enforcement agencies” to remove content the EU does not favor.

Facebook and Twitter are to provide “regular training to their staff on current societal developments” and work more closely with national governments and “their law enforcement agencies” to remove content the EU does not favour.

Most alarmingly, however, the platforms have also promised to engage in the active promotion of views and organisations the EU does favour, and the re-education of supposedly hateful users.

Facebook and others must, “recogniz[e] the value of independent counter speech against hateful rhetoric and prejudice, aim to continue their work in identifying and promoting independent counter-narratives, new ideas and initiatives and supporting educational programs that encourage critical thinking.”

Janice Atkinson MEP told Breitbart London: “It’s Orwellian. Anyone who has read 1984 sees it’s very re-enactment live. 

“The Commission has been itching to shut down free speech in the Parliament and now they’re attacking social media. We have already seen Facebook ‘policing’ so-called right-wing postings.

“If an MEP, such as the centre-right Hungarians, the Danish People’s Party, the Finns, the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian FPO, say no to migration quotas because they cannot cope with the cultural and religious requirements of Muslims across the Middle East who are seeking refugee status, is that a hate crime? And what is their punishment? It’s a frightening path to totalitarianism.”

UKIP’s Justice and Home Affairs spokeswoman Diane James MEP told Breitbart London:

“This legislation is so vague that it is the thin end of the wedge not just curb hate speech but free speech as well.  

“Different people and cultures across Europe have different ways of communicating. The Liberal tradition in Britain for instance is more open and very different from that of dictatorial former Communist countries in the East.

“The EU was sold to people as a Common Market, it became a political union and now wishes to decide and compromise our civil liberties as a people. This is unacceptable to a free people who have a right to know where all this legislation is leading to.

“The EU was sold to people as a Common Market, it became a political union and now wishes to decide and compromise our civil liberties as a people. This is unacceptable to a free people who have a right to know where all this legislation is leading to.

“In my opinion, if the EU still allows to me have an opinion, I believe this matter should be decided by national parliaments rather than the unelected European Commission.“

The Code of Conduct has also been slammed by groups who have been working closely with the Commission. In a sign of an impending backlash, one organisation which promotes privacy, data protection, and net neutrality has already vowed to break ties. 

The European Digital Rights (EDRi) announced its decision to pull out of future discussions with the Commission today, stating it does not have confidence in the “ill-considered code of conduct”.

“Faced with this lamentable outcome, and with no possibility to provide meaningful input to this process, the Commission has left us with no other choice but to withdraw from the discussion,” said Estelle Massé, EU Policy Analyst at Access Now.

“It is ironic that the Commission is threatening to take Member States to court for failing to implement EU law on racism and xenophobia while it is persuading companies like Google and Facebook to sweep offences under the carpet,” added Joe McNamee, Executive Director at European Digital Rights.

Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook, said: “We welcome today’s announcement and the chance to continue our work with the Commission and wider tech industry to fight hate speech.”

The “criminalizing [of] hate speech is dependent on a robust system of enforcement of criminal law sanctions against the individual perpetrators of hate speech” the Commission declares.

Insisting that, “it is essential to ensure that relevant national laws” are used to combat “racism and xenophobia are fully enforced by Member States”. Furthermore, “illegal hate speech online” must be “expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms” within a short “time-frame”.

Last September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overheard confronting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about “hate speech”, with Mr. Zuckerberg replying: “We need to do some work”

Now, the EU has described how: “The IT Companies support the European Commission and EU Member States… They share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.”

The Commission argues that expanding censorship will somehow protect and expand free speech, because “[hate speech] negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms”.

Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said the new measures would counter Islamist terrorism:

“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred”.

Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe, Karen White, said: “Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter… We look forward to further constructive dialogue between the European Commission, member states, our partners in civil society and our peers in the technology sector on this issue.”

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