Social media giant Facebook has agreed to help the French police with identifying individuals who are suspected of spreading hate speech online. The French government is celebrating the collaboration as a global first.
The announcement came after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Paris last month and took part in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Like many countries, France has been dealing with the issue of multiplying online accounts which post content and materials that propagate hateful and often violent or racist agendas. Any abusive or threatening speech or writing expressing prejudice against a particular group based on race, religion, or sexual orientation is classified as hate speech.
The country, which has also been hit by deadly extremist attacks in recent years, has found that the internet and social media often play important roles in the organisational stages underpinning such attacks.
France’s digital affairs minister, Cédric O, said that Facebook would provide authorities with “IP addresses to help identify authors of hateful content,” according to AP. Speaking on broadcaster France-Info, he expressed hope that the cooperation could expand to other countries.
Facebook gave a statement in which it said it would help provide “basic information in criminal hate speech cases” to French authorities but made clear they would “push back if (the request) is overbroad, inconsistent with human rights, or legally defective.”
The social network is notorious for being difficult when it comes to its users’ rights. Several scandals in the past were based on either the way the company accumulated personal user data or how it then chose to protect it. The latter issue blew up in 2018, when it was revealed that the data of millions of people worldwide had been improperly shared with the political consultancy company Cambridge Analytica.