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France gives social media sites one hour to delete criminal content

If they fail to do so, they’ll have to pay a hefty fine.
Marc DeAngelis
May 13, 2020
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lupengyu via Getty Images

The internet has no shortage of illegal media and verbiage. Social media companies do what they can to soften the blow, but unsavory (and downright criminal) images, videos and text inevitably break through. According to Reuters, France’s government has passed a strict law that will require companies like Facebook and Twitter to delete content related to pedophelia and terrorism within one hour of their being posted. If they don’t, the law stipulates that they’ll have to pay four percent of their global revenue. Meanwhile, other “manifestly illicit” content must be removed within 24 hours. The government hopes that this law will help to eliminate criminal imagery and reduce hate speech.

Various countries have expressed interest in similar laws, but a one hour window is a new -- and eyebrow-raising -- proposition. Companies like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat already have employees and hordes of contractors to help moderate posts and uploads, and many even use automated systems to remove illegal content. It’s not clear how the French government expects these platforms to find and remove the images and text in question within 60 minutes, but the law calls for special prosecutors to keep an eye on how well they comply.

This law feels rather ambitious. While it’s obviously in everyone’s best interest to remove content related to pedophelia and terrorism, lawmakers’ expectations seem unrealistic. Time will tell how well social media companies comply with the law -- and how strictly the French government enforces it.

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