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US refuses to sign France’s G7 online “hate speech” pledge

US social media companies had already delayed signing the pledge on Friday.
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The US has rejected a controversial online “hate speech” pledge which requires online service providers to commit to increased content moderation on their platforms.

France originally hoped that US social media companies would sign the pledge titled “Charter for an Open, Free, and Safe Internet” at the G7 summit on Friday. However, the signing was delayed, with some reports claiming that Trump had asked US social media companies to delay signing the pledge and a Trump administration official refuting these claims by saying that France was bullying US social media companies to join.

Despite the delay, France’s junior minister for the digital industry Cédric O expected the US social media companies to sign the pledge today and said at the time that: “There’s no doubt on the fact that the social networks will sign the pledge.”

However, O’s expectations have not materialized and today French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that the US did not sign the pledge by telling reporters: “We had a very good discussion with the United States, which for legal reasons was not able to formalize the agreement on this point.”

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Macron didn’t elaborate on the “legal reasons” but they’re presumably related to the First Amendment of the US Constitution – since the charter was primarily focused on combating online “hate speech” and requiring platforms to restrict content while this amendment protects freedom of speech.

Although the US didn’t sign, Macron said that France formalized an agreement with “several Anglo-Saxon and European platforms” and that the pledge had “support from nearly all” of the G7 countries. Macron added that he was hopeful that the US would sign the pledge in the coming weeks.

The US refusing to sign this “hate speech” pledge is akin to the decision it made with the Christchurch Call – a similar pledge which called for governments and online service providers to tackle “terrorist and violent extremist content online.” With the Christchurch Call, the US cited concerns about First Amendment rights and said it would not back the call.

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