Yet there is a non-neglectable risk that malicious actors would find ways to circumvent these guidelines and manage to publish harmful content by side stepping platforms’ rules.
Ultimately, it is crucial that legislators provide social media platforms with a detailed list of the kinds of behavior that should be forbidden, along with legal definitions of significant terms, such as "hate speech," "harassment" and "disinformation". The more specific and precise the information legislators provide the platforms on what should be allowed and what shouldn’t, the easier it will be for the latter to set up appropriate moderation processes, and for legislators to establish accountability mechanisms allowing them to gain some oversight on platforms’ efforts to moderate content.
How do France’s efforts compare to the United States’ approach to harmful content online?
France is visibly investing significant efforts to develop a coherent approach to these issues. US authorities have to make progress in a more complex environment, because the First Amendment sharply limits the possibilities of content moderation. Moreover, some US politicians have accused platforms of being biased against conservative ideas, based on (at best) anecdotal evidence. Platforms’ room for maneuver in the US would thus be very restrained if they were to attempt to establish more active moderation processes. I expect to see much stronger pressure towards content moderation in Europe than in the US in the coming years.
The French government collaborated with Facebook to issue the report published on May 10th. What is your take on such a collaboration? Should it be encouraged in other parts of the world?
My team at the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Lab has a cooperation agreement with Facebook, so the fact that I think cooperation has a lot of potential, and needs to be increased, shouldn’t come as a surprise! In reality, the size of most platforms - not just Facebook -, is so important in comparison with the number of people they employ that it is impossible for them to control everything from within the company. In fact, it would even be deeply disturbing if they tried to do so. Hence, it is crucial that other players contribute to solving the problems these platforms face, and I believe collaborating with them is a good way to do so.