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EU Justice Ministers call on Facebook to be stricter about removing hoaxes and threats

14.12.2015 20:20

The European Union's council of Member State Justice Ministers announced on 3 December that they are planning to jointly call on Facebook to be faster and stricter about removing hateful threats and hoaxes from the social networking site. "We are seriously debating this at the council of ministers. Here in the Czech Republic we are not very interesting [to Facebook] because we are a small market, and that is why we are doing our best to get Europe as a whole to agree to tell Facebook these matters need to be overseen," Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán told news server Aktuálně.cz.

The Czech Justice Minister had previously warned that those who incite hatred face up to two years in prison in the context of prosecuting Martin Konvička, leader of the Bloc against Islam, for remarks he has made. "The right to one's own opinion is one thing, however distasteful it might be, but disinformation is another thing altogether. Various altered photographs and fake articles are circulating online. That is actually dangerous, that is the root of these problems," the Czech Justice Minister said, emphasizing that the country will not be introducing censorship and that only the clearest, most flagrant examples of disinformation would be deleted from the online environment.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas criticized Facebook this summer over its approach to posts with xenophobic content. In his view, when deleting objectionable posts, the company employs a double standard, automatically removing all posts featuring naked people while leaving racist, xenophobic posts accessible despite warnings about them from other users.

At the September UN summit on sustainable development in New York, a microphone managed to capture part of a private conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Merkel asked him whether his company intended to do something about the racist, xenophobic posts flooding Facebook in the context of the refugee crisis.

Zuckerberg responded that the company is working on the issue. By November, Germany had pressured the social networking site to promise it would reduce its tolerance of xenophobic comments and status updates in the country.

Threats of physical violence published on Facebook in Germany will now be considered credible threats and will be removed. EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová also spoke recently with representatives of technology firms such as Facebook and Goole about inciting hatred through the Internet.

The Justice Commissioner said she believed it will soon be possible to introduce changes in three areas:  More rapidly discovering displays of hatred, removing them more efficiently, and instituting better protection mechanisms for the victims of such displays. "There is more and more evidence that incitement to hatred through the Internet leads to violence offline. Unfortunately, anonymity is abused on the Internet by some in order to post extremely violent figures of speech and messages. These might seem harmless, but they bolster discriminatory reactions that are even more clear-cut. That is why we must accelerate the work leading to the reduction and eradication of this Internet phenomenon," she said in an interview with Czech Television. 

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Angela Merkelová, Facebook, Internet, Germany, Hate violence, Robert Pelikán, Věra Jourová


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