Facebook agreed Tuesday night to hand French judges the identification data of French users who are suspected of distributing hate speech, the country’s digital affairs minister said.
The decision comes after several meetings between Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech. France’s minister for digital affairs Cedric O, one of Macron’s advisers, has been an influential person directing Macron’s thinking on big tech issues.
“This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally,” O told Reuters. “It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.” Facebook confirmed the report. (RELATED: Here’s What Facebook And Google Did Not Discuss During Hearing On White Nationalism)
“As a matter of course, we will no longer refer French law enforcement authorities to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process to request basic information in criminal hate speech cases,” company spokeswoman Monique Hall told the Daily Caller News Foundation, referring to an agreement not requiring Facebook to provide private data to authorities.
She added a caveat. “However, as we do with all court orders for information, even in the US, we will scrutinize every order we receive and push back if is overbroad, inconsistent with human rights, or legally defective,” Hall said in an attempt to allay concerns that the company might provide mass amount of data to the government.
Facebook previously refused to provide such identification data because the Silicon Valley company was worried countries without an independent judiciary could abuse it. It was also not required to fork over data under U.S.-French legal conventions. The company has been under intense pressure to crack down on misinformation.
Some are hailing the move, calling it a decision that could have implications across the industry.
“It is a strong signal in terms of regulation,” Sonia Cisse, a counsel at law firm Linklaters, told reporters Tuesday. “Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it’s now on the same level as terrorism.”
The decision comes at an awkward moment for government officials and the company. Facebook has increasingly come under fire for being lax with the private data of its users, especially after lawmakers opened an investigation of the company’s decision to provide data to Cambridge Analytica before the 2016 presidential election.
The company disclosed to investors in April that company officials are putting $3 billion aside in the event the Federal Trade Commission fines them for their role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. They have not reached a settlement with the FTC. The fine could be as high as $5 billion.
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