14 November 2018

France launches an unprecedented experiment in the regulation of hate content

At the Internet Governance Forum, the President of the Republic announced the establishment of an unprecedented experiment with Facebook.

While there has been an upsurge in hate speech and online violence, the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister have made the regulation of hate material and online bullying a top priority for the coming months with regard to regulation of the Internet.

"We are working together to define an innovative framework for the regulation of hate material following the submissions of the Avia-Taïeb-Amellal report and the preliminary findings of the États généraux de la régulation du numérique (Digital Regulations Convention)", said Mounir Mahjoubi.

The approach adopted by France, in order to have an immediate impact on the so-called major "systemic" platforms, is to test out co-regulation through joint work carried out by stakeholders and regulators to ensure that general interest objectves are fulfilled in one area. In this instance, it is a question of ensuring the effectiveness of future national and European legislation that the Prime Minister would like to see on the removal of hate material.

The Minister of State for the Digital Sector is responsible for ensuring the experiment’s operational management, by mobilising the ministries, including the Ministry of Economy, as well as the voluntary independent administrative authorities.

"This experiment is the first step towards unprecedented and effective regulation to ensure the uncompromising fulfilment of general interest objectives while supporting innovation and the development of digital technology.
We will set clear objectives for stakeholders in order to fully assess all the methods used. As such, we are making stakeholders accountable, while having an immediate impact that can be seen by citizens.
We cannot tolerate the place occupied by this content on the various platforms or the impact it is having on the lives of our fellow citizens".

Mounir Mahjoubi

The field experiment involves in-depth joint work undertaken by a team of French regulators (four to five people from voluntary independent administrative authorities and central administrations) and teams from Facebook, on the methods, internal processes and algorithms used by this company in dealing with hate material.

The aim is to be able to observe and fully assess the way in which hate speech is dealt with by the platform; to reach shared conclusions on the best way to regulate this material; and, where required, report on the reality and quality of the efforts made to identify, qualify and deal with contentious cases.

This is a world first, which could be extended to include other voluntary stakeholders, as well as to other areas of digital regulation.