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Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are facing legal troubles in France, where three organizations are planning legal action against the internet giants for failing to comply with French law by not removing hate speech from their respective sites.
France’s largest anti-racism group, SOS Racisme, along with the French Jewish student union (UEJF) and gay rights movement SOS Homophobie, said that out of the 586 offensive videos, tweets, and comments they found during the month-long survey, only a small percentage was taken down.
French law states that websites must remove any racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic material and inform the authorities. The groups’ alerted the companies to the offensive content, but only a fraction of it was deleted. Facebook had the most positive response, erasing 53 out of 156 comments or messages, YouTube took down 16 out of 225 items, and Twitter removed just 8 out of the 205 Tweets that the group highlighted.
"In light of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook's profits and how little taxes they pay, their refusal to invest in the fight against hate is unacceptable," said UEJF president Sacha Reingewirtz in a statement.
French regulations state that digital providers must “suppress obviously illegal content within a reasonable time, and to notify it to public prosecutors.” The groups’ lawsuit is based on the fact that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have seemingly failed to adhere to this law.
Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, pointed out that Facebook was quick to take down content that it considers pornographic but rarely moves as fast to delete hate speech.
"This makes us question whether Facebook, which is modeled on an American vision of society, is willing to conform to the standards of the French community and legal system," said Sopo. "These platforms seem more shocked by bare breasts, which are promptly censored, than by hate speech content against individuals or groups."
Many European countries have similar laws to France that ban this type of offensive material; in December, Facebook, Google, and Twitter agreed to delete hate speech from their respective platforms in Germany.