A coalition of “anti-racist”, gay rights and student groups are preparing to sue Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for allegedly hosting “hate speech” but continuing to censor pornographic content.
France’s largest “anti-racism” group, SOS Racism, the Jewish Students’ Union (UEJF), and a group called SOS Homophobie have released the results of a social media survey carried out between the 31st of March and the 10th of May.
It claimed to find “586 examples of content that is racist, anti-semitic or homophobic, denies the Holocaust or seeks to justify terrorism or crimes against humanity”. They insist this is in breach of the law in France, which has sweeping protections against “hate speech”.
According to Humanité, the report went on to say that of the 586 reported cases of alleged “hate material”, only four per cent were removed from Twitter, seven per cent from YouTube, and 34 per cent from Facebook.
The term “hate speech” is notably broad and open to wide interpretation. It has been appropriated to cover anything from mild criticism of Islam, gay marriage and mass migration, to neo-Nazi and Islamist propaganda.
If the French groups win their case, it could result in even more conservative material disappearing from the accused social media platforms.
Sacha Reingewirtz, President of UEJF, slammed the tech firms for not removing perceived offensive content or revealing how they choose stories to occupy their “trending news” section.
“Given the profits Youtube, Twitter and Facebook make in France, and the few taxes they pay, their refusal to invest in the fight against hatred is unacceptable,” she said.
She added: “The mystery surrounding the functioning of the moderation teams of social networks prevents any serious progress in reducing racist and anti-Semitic messages. Since the major platforms do not respect French law, not even their own conditions, they will have to face justice.”
Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, argued that female breasts should be splashed across social media, saying:
“Twitter, YouTube and Facebook cannot continue to use soothing words to cover their inaction on moderation.
“These platforms seem more shocked by toplessness, which is promptly censored, than the incitement to hatred against persons or groups of persons. Our lawsuit against them is to enforce a right that they must now fully comply with.”
Gilles Dehais President of SOS Homophobia, said: “Despite an effort to address hate speech when it is reported, this testing campaign shows the lack of responsiveness to flagged content via the current route.
“We regret that the majority of Internet players still do not implement sufficient means to protect their users from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic sentiments, and enforce French law.”