The anger that governments have decided to pile onto Facebook – sometimes for all the wrong reasons from the point of view of regular users – is not lost on the tech giant.
This has resulted in “a world first,” as Reuters termed it, that will see the global social media platform give the French government personal data of French people suspected of engaging in so-called “hate speech.”
The announcement came after a series of meetings between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron – who apparently has succeeded where the British Parliament in the past failed to lure Zuckerberg into showing up before it.
Facebook used to hand over data to the French – such as IP address and other data that might identify suspects in serious crimes as terrorist attacks – if the French authorities officially demanded it.
But now Facebook has included “hate speech” in this category where it will collect and hand data over to the French authorities.
The announcement came from Nick Clegg, and Cedric O. One is a former British politician-turned Facebook head of global affairs, and the other is a crucial figure in shaping Macron's policy on Big Tech, Reuters reports.
“This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally. It's really very important, they're only doing it for France,” O is quoted as saying.
Huge news indeed.
“It is a strong signal in terms of regulation. Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it's now on the same level as terrorism,” said counsel at law firm Linklaters Sonia Cisse.
This means that “hate speech” – a transgression not even criminalized in Facebook's native America, and difficult to define and measure at best of times, and therefore prone to arbitrary misuse and abuse – is now slowly but surely being afforded the same status as terrorism.
Let that sink in.
There's been of a tit-for-tat going on here, it appears, as O also revealed he has not warmed to the idea of breaking Facebook up into smaller chunks. As long as it plays along, it can never be too big, seems to be the French government's message.
In the past, Facebook was unwilling to give over identification data of hate-speech suspect as US-French legal deals did not force the company to do so.
But now Macron party-dominated French parliament is mulling taking four percent of tech giant's global revenue in case they “don't do enough to remove hateful content from their network.”