Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, there has been burgeoning awareness of the hate speech on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While activists have pressured these companies to improve their content moderation, few groups (outside of the German government) have outright sued the platforms for their actions.
That’s because of a legal distinction between media publications and media platforms that has made solving hate speech online a vexing problem.
Take, for instance, an op-ed published in the New York Times calling for the slaughter of an entire minority group. The Times would likely be sued for publishing hate speech, and the plaintiffs may well be victorious in their case. Yet, if that op-ed were published in a Facebook post, a suit against Facebook would likely fail.