Media & Entertainment

Facebook Agrees To Do More To Help Combat Hate Speech In Germany

Comment

Image Credits:

Europe’s refugee crisis has spilled over to Facebook. In Germany, where thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing conflict in their own country are being offered asylum, Facebook has found itself being pressured by the government to do more to combat hate speech against immigrants. Yesterday the WSJ reported that Facebook has agreed to work with the German Justice Ministry to fight xenophobic and racist messages being posted on its platform.

In a statement, Facebook also said it is “striving” to partner with Germany internet safety NGO, FSM, to help “support users” in Germany, as well as “working with expert local input” to do more to tackle hate speech. For its part, the FSM said it welcomes Facebook’s efforts to become a member, with general manager Otto Vollmers adding:” Along with Facebook, we can develop joint solutions to address controversial cases referred to in this sensitive and difficult trade-off.”

The move to partner with a relevant local organization to combat hate speech is in addition to existing resources focused on the German market within Facebook’s community operations team, which the company reiterated “already includes German language specialists that review German content”.

Facebook also noted that its existing community standards prohibit hate speech against protected groups and the incitement to violence against others. However in recent weeks, as the WSJ notes, the German government has criticized Facebook for not being fast or comprehensive enough in removing hate speech from its platform. Hence the government now co-ordinating the creation of a task force — that will involve Facebook and other Internet competitors — aimed at evaluating whether content flagged as inappropriate should be considered acceptable freedom of speech. Or whether it’s actually illegal hate speech under German law.

Commenting on this in a statement, Facebook’s head of policy in Germany, Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, said: “We are looking forward to our meeting with Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas as we believe that the best solutions are often found when people in business, politics and civil society all work together on common challenges like online safety.”

In parallel Facebook said it would be setting up its own task force, inviting local community organizations to be involved in finding solutions to what it said is a “complex” issue. It added that only “a very small minority of people have posted content that appears to cross the line of acceptable speech” — noting also there’s been plenty of positive sentiment expressed about refugees via Facebook — and emphasized that it welcomes “political debate on our platform”, adding it believes it is “especially important to allow this to happen when issues are controversial”.

It’s fair to say that big U.S. tech platforms have increasingly found their First Amendment free speech positions are required to flex as they expand into other markets — whether it’s to comply with regional legal differences or because their profile means they come under acute political pressure on sensitive local issues, such as the current refugee crisis in Europe, or indeed on issues such as terrorism. The Internet does not have (many) boundaries yet crosses many international borders, so the bigger the tech giant, the more their operational policies needs must contain multitudes.

Working with local community organizations in Germany is one way for Facebook to be seen to be sensitive to local realities — in a bid to steer off further criticism from the government — while also spreading some of the burden of adapting its operations for different markets. Convening a mixed group to tackle a speech-based issue also likely allows Facebook to speak up for the pro-speech position, given that the German groups will be providing more expert input on what’s inappropriate speech under local laws and within local communities.

“Facebook believes that the best way to address complex issues like hate speech on the Internet is for companies, NGOs and politicians to work together sharing their expertise in different aspects of the problem,” it said. “The aim of this group is to find workable solutions to counter xenophobia and racism and the way in which this may be expressed online. Facebook will be inviting community organisations such as Netz Gegen Nazis, Laut gegen Nazis, and FSM to join the group as well as representatives of political parties in Germany, and of other online services. We are also inviting the German Ministry of Justice to participate in that dialogue.”

In a third push also clearly aimed at moving the debate onto ground Facebook is more comfortable with, it said it will be working to promote “counterspeech” as an anti-hate speech strategy — offering “interested organizations… best practice examples from all over the world on how to effectively use counterspeech”. So, basically, getting people to post more to Facebook as a strategy to counter problematic content that risks being taken off Facebook. Which of course makes sense for a business powered by user generated content.

“Facebook will bring key experts from Great Britain and the Nordics – countries that already today have great expertise on counter speech – to support organisations in Germany to even better use the platform for their initiatives and to enable them to fight against racism and xenophobia with the most possible impact,” it added.

The argument that ‘bad speech’ should be countered with ‘more speech’ is one that’s often deployed in defense of absolutist free speech positions (which view any takedowns as censorship). However where hate speech is concerned, the law provides some hard limits.

More TechCrunch

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender Solo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient, and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets