As the aftershocks of the terrorist attacks suffered earlier this month continue to be felt, French President Francois Hollande is calling for companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter to be held accountable for their part in facilitating hate, introducing a bill that would make tech companies “accomplices” to hate crimes if they host extremist messages online.
At last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Hollande challenged Internet companies to identify and shut down extremist networks. French laws are among the toughest in the world when it comes to speech inciting racial hatred, discrimination, or violence. “Don’t let a beast roam today when it could attack you tomorrow,” Hollande cautioned assembled leaders.
One reason for the targeting of tech companies in particular is because, as with everything else, extremist speech has increasingly moved online. While well-intentioned, the proposed law will undoubtedly anger some in Silicon Valley. Anti-defamation laws arguably curb freedom of expression, an especially beloved right here in U.S. Google in particular has long been caught up in related issues such as the “right to be forgotten” and lawsuits targeting the company’s autocomplete function.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that he will travel to the U.S. to seek help from the tech companies in person.