At the end of last week, representatives from Twitter sat down with the French Government and some of the anti-hate speech associations in France to discuss how Twitter could enable these associations to have priority access to alerting Twitter of any hate speech, which is illegal in France. The overall theme behind these proceedings is that the French government should be able to decide how the internet is used by French citizens, a call which Twitter seems to have decided to abide by. The meeting came just 10 days after the government issued a call to Twitter, saying that if they did not create such a tool for associations and government officials to be alerted to racist hashtags, trends, and otherwise offensive tweets, that the social networking company would be fined 1000€/day.
The results of the talk, which were initially published by the DGMIC but have since been redirected to a 404 page, seem quite well summed up by the phrase “All Talk, No Action.” While Twitter representatives stated they would “benefit from a status which would allow them to post legal reminders concerning offesive content. These messages would benefit from extreme publicity and would arrive at the top of a page about a given subject- homophobia, for example.”
OK. So, Twitter’s giving the government and non-profit associations free Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends. Given that Promoted Trends recently shot up in price, now costing $200,000/day, this is a pretty nice gesture – but it seems the associations were left disappointed.
What these associations and government entities are looking for is for websites, like Twitter, to “adapt its procedures to French law,” as Numerama quoted a representative from an LGBT advocacy group; however, what they don’t seem to realize is that what makes web services so profitable/different/appealing is that they are, as of today, more or less without law. Sure, you can be held accountable for what you say online, like boasting on Facebook about driving drunk or knowingly soliciting minors online; but the responsibility has always fallen on the individuals to censor themselves, not on the web services to censor the individual in accordance with political interests.
I recently torrented a copy of TPB AFK, the documentary about The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest file-sharing site. While the documentary itself is interesting, the ideals of TPB spokesperson Peter Sunde particularly stood with me, about how applying ‘old law’ to the Internet changes the Internet into a censored body – I highly recommend taking the 80 minutes to watch a piece of Internet history.
As for Twitter – so far, it seems that they are playing the “pacification and appeasement” card, though they haven’t given in too much just yet. The French government will continue to push them, and while Copyright may not be the government’s way into Internet Censorship, I wouldn’t be surprised if Anti-Hate Speech is.
Twitter’s 15 day warning before its 1000€/day fine is up, so let’s see if any news trickles in about them ponying over the money
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