Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are facing tough new pan-European laws, forcing them to remove hate speech and sexually explicit videos or face steep fines.
European Union ministers approved proposals from the European Commission on Tuesday, which seek to tackle the rise in objectionable videos posted to social media platforms.
The proposed rules, which still need to be agreed with the European Parliament before becoming law, are the first at EU-level on the issues of hate speech and sexually explicit video.
The rules are not yet public and now enter what is known as “trialogue” – discussions between negotiators from the EC, the European parliament and the Council of the European Union – in the next few weeks.
“We need to take into account new ways of watching videos, and find the right balance to encourage innovative services, promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech in a better way,” said Andrus Ansip, EC vice-president for the digital single market.
The EU aims to provide one governing rule for video content in Europe to replace the various national laws that have struggled to tackle the rise of objectionable content. Lawmakers across EU member states have similarly pushed for social media companies to do more to tackle hateful content on their platforms, following a spate of murders, rapes and assaults captured on video and posted on Facebook and other US-owned social media platforms.
The rules do not govern live video broadcasts of which Facebook Live is being increasingly used to livestream objectionable content and acts.
The proposals state that where the provision of videos forms an “essential part” of the services provided by a social media company, they will have to take measures to block videos with hate speech, incitement to hatred and content justifying terrorism from their platforms. The proliferation of such content and fake news on social media has ramped up pressure on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to remove such content promptly, but internet campaigners have warned an excessive crackdown could endanger freedom of speech.
In the last year, Facebook in particular, has been used as a platform for objectionable material. In April, a Thai man livestreamed the murder of his 11-month-old daughter on Facebook, leaving two harrowing clips accessible to users for 24 hours before being taken down. But it was just one of a string of incidents, including the murder of a 74-year-old man in Cleveland, and the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl from Chicago.
The proposals, which fall under the digital single market legislation, also include a quota of 30% of European films and TV shows on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Video, up from the 20% originally proposed by the EC. Member states will also be able to require video-sharing platforms to contribute financially to the production of European works in the country where they are established and also where they target audiences.
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