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US social media companies have delayed signing a pledge which aims to combat what the French government deems to be online “hate speech.” The pledge pushes online service providers to commit to more aggressive censorship and moderation of content on their platforms.

Europe 1 radio is reporting that President Trump pressured US social media companies to delay signing the pledge. However, a Trump administration official has pushed back and said that France was bullying the companies to join.

The pledge, which is titled “Charter for an Open, Free, and Safe Internet,” expands on the commitments made by social media companies during the Christchurch Call – a series of voluntary commitments from governments and online service providers which aim to tackle “terrorist and violent extremist content online” but were criticized by digital rights groups for containing vague definitions which could lead to the silencing of speech.

The pledge will widen the scope of the commitments from online service providers related to:

  • Taking down content
  • Moderating content
  • Being transparent
  • Providing support for victims

France wanted US social media companies to sign this pledge on Friday (August 23). However, according to France’s junior minister for the digital industry Cédric O, the signing has been delayed but will still take place Monday (August 27).

O added: “There’s no doubt on the fact that the social networks will sign the pledge.” He expects Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and other US social media companies to sign the pledge.

A senior Trump administration official said that the White House is still evaluating the pledge and that the industry wants to water down the initiative.

The delayed signing of this pledge comes just over a month after Trump suggested that he may introduce retaliatory tariffs in response to France’s new digital-service tax which mandates that tech companies with annual revenues of $845 million or more must pay a 3% tax on their profits in France. Trump is still considering these tariffs but the European Union (EU) has said it will “respond in kind” if they’re introduced.

It also follows France introducing a new, far-reaching “hate speech” law in July which requires platforms to remove what the government deems to be “hateful” or “offensive” content within 24 hours or face a fine of up to €1.25 million. Even Facebook, which has one of the most stringent “hate speech” policies, felt that this law was unrealistic because of the 24-hour window.

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