Sweden Threatens Action if Facebook Fails to Censor ‘Hate’, ‘Fake News’

Eva Fadeel/FLICKR

Sweden’s Minister for Culture and Democracy has told Facebook to censor so-called “fake news” voluntarily or else face “compulsory measures” by the government.

Alice Bah Kuhnke indicated that the government would be willing to take a tougher line on Facebook following the publication of an open letter to the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. The Green Party minister said the piece was “of great benefit” to the national debate on censoring “hate”.

The letter, penned by Expressen’s culture editor Jonas Gardell, says Zuckerberg should feel “ashamed”, because by allowing people to post links to so-called “fake” news on Facebook, the left-leaning social media chief is “providing liars with a megaphone”.

Gardell asserts that “the whole of Western democracy” is “seriously threatened” and that by allowing users to post things which are “untrue”, Facebook is complicit in this. He called for Sweden’s “hate speech laws” to be used more widely and forcefully.

An example of “fake news” cited in the piece is that “[Hillary] Clinton sold weapons to ISIS”. In actual fact, a report released in November last year confirmed that Hillary Clinton was head of a programme in 2011 in which the U.S. shipped arms to al-Qaeda, much of which ended up later in the hands of Islamic State.

Facebook’s decision to not censor links from publications outside the mainstream media could cause the “free, democratic world as we know it” to “go under” Gardell argues, and points to U.S. voters electing Donald Trump, and voters in Britain opting for Brexit as primary examples of this.

The gay activist says Trump is “shameless”, “wicked”, and “unhallowed”, alleging this is because he “unabashedly lies and does not feel guilty about it in the least”. Also included in this category, according to Gardell, are politicians who supported leaving the European Union (EU).

He writes: “Take the politicians who advocated Brexit in the UK. Not only did they lie uncontrollably, they also knew that they lied and had absolutely no intention of taking responsibility for the situation when it happened as it happened.

“If the world is increasingly controlled by people who do not feel shame, it is more important that the rest of us feel ashamed of our inability to prevent their rise to power.”

Gardell has previously bragged live on air that he and his husband have hidden several “refugees” in their summer cottage.

Bah Kuhnke said the letter drew attention to several challenges to the media landscape, and said that Facebook must take responsibility for content users post, including “the hatred and lies spread there”.

The culture minister said she will invite Facebook to Sweden to discuss how to “move forward” on the issue of censorship, adding: “I am convinced that [Facebook] do not want to be an arena for threats, hate and fake news.”

She said “there is a more intensive debate than ever before” among government ministers, regarding “hate speech” and “fake news”. The minister told Expressen that “there are many who see that [the amount of ‘hate speech’ and ‘fake news’] has crossed a line” and said she wants Facebook to address this voluntarily.

“If this approach fails, I’m one of many ministers in the Nordic countries who are prepared to take the next step,” Bah Kuhnke warned.

“The next step would be to enact compulsory, binding measures”, she said, insisting that while the government is reluctant to do so, the country “can’t afford to lose to hatred”.

The unelected executive arm of the EU has threatened to escalate from “non-legislative” action if Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube do not censor what it considers “illegal” online speech within 24 hours. Speaking on Sunday, the bloc’s justice commissioner added “fake news” to the list of what they want censored online.

In May this year the U.S. tech giants signed a “code of conduct”, promising to work with the Commission and national law enforcement to “criminalise” and “sanction” “individual perpetrators” as well as committing to “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the EU favours.


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