To curb hate speech on social media, we need to look beyond Facebook, Twitter: Experts

Researchers who study social media say that Reddit and other, similar sites are typically ignored in the public debate about hate speech and extremism because they are not publicly traded like Facebook and Twitter. Carlson says that because these are private companies, they receive less attention from shareholders or analysts.

I also think that journalists and lawmakers’ familiarity with sites like Facebook and Twitter make them an easier target for criticism and even regulation,” she added. “The acronym-filled, text-based nature of platforms like Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan, makes them less accessible to these groups and thus, more difficult to deal with.”

Carlson and Tsesis urge the public, regulators, and the media to look beyond Facebook and Twitter in assessing the damage of hate speech, but both experts welcome the new German law.

I do support the legislation,” said Tsesis.”These platforms have already agreed with the European Commission on Unit Data Protection to monitor, analyze and remove hate speech. The German law adds power to regulators to demand compliance with this agreement because currently no platform meets the 24 hour take-down agreement.”

Tsesis notes that the main reasons why social media platforms have so far failed to comply with rules requiring them to remove hate speech is their reluctance to slow down the upload process and hire many more analysts to monitor these uploads.

He predicted that this will change with the new law. “The statute will make it more costly for the platforms not to comply than it will cost them to comply.”

Carlson also supports Germany’s decision to get tougher with social media firms. 

I agree with spirit of the law recently passed in Germany,” she said. “I also fully support the law’s stipulation to reveal the identity of those behind the hateful posts so that they may be prosecuted for any laws broken, from libel, to privacy, to incitement.”

Carlson and Tsesis think other countries such as Canada or France could adopt similar laws and would support legislation to this effect in the United States as well, but both say they do not believe such legislation is likely to pass in the United States.

Unfortunately, I do not think this legislation will impact most social media organizations’ hate speech removal policies here in the United States,” said Carlson.

There is greater naivete in the United States about the dangers of destructive messages,” said Tsesis, referring to the comparatively broad protections offered to freedom of speech by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

He noted, however, that while the German law will be unenforceable in the United States, American companies will need to make changes or remove the content visible in Germany even if their data resides on a server located in the United States.