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EU Commissioner Says Social Media “Didn’t Do Enough” To Censor French Riot Posts

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Pro-censorship European Commissioner Thierry Breton’s recent critique of social media platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat for purportedly inadequate content censorship during France’s riots has sparked concerns among free speech advocates.

Speaking on France Info radio, Breton highlighted the firms’ alleged failure to control content related to the civil unrest, a standpoint that some fear could potentially infringe on freedom of expression.

The rioting that plagued French cities in the aftermath of a police-related shooting incident involving a teenager on June 27 was amplified by videos circulated on social media, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

While Macron argues the spread of these videos exacerbated the unrest, advocates for free speech might interpret the situation differently, viewing social media as a platform for citizens to document and share real-time, uncensored reports of events happening in their community.

From August 25 onwards, under the EU’s Digital Services Act, the European Union will wield more substantial powers in enforcing compliance with rules governing content removal. Breton clarified that any platforms failing to eliminate “content that is hateful” would face immediate penalties, including fines and suspensions. This prospect raises questions about where to draw the line between harmful content and free speech, an ongoing debate in the digital era.

Breton assured that action against non-compliant platforms would be swift, stating that, “Platforms will have to show us that they are in a position to apply the law.” This comment, while indicative of a proactive approach to content censorship, stokes concerns about the potential for censorship and restrictions on free speech.

In response to the unfolding events, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta Platforms Inc., has hired an additional 1,000 censors, according to Breton. He also suggested that Meta should confirm the compliance of its new app, Threads, with EU law before its launch in the bloc.

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