Hate speech online: how to regulate (a)social media networks

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Gruden, Emma
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How can hate speech be combated on social media? Social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter have long positioned themselves as defenders of free speech and were reluctant to interfere in any political debate. Under the shield of free speech, harassers, antisemites, racists, sexists, and xenophobes had the means to spread their message with total impunity. With the re-emergence of nationalism and populism in Europe and throughout the world, social media platforms have recently started to combat hate speech on their platforms, either using self-regulation mechanisms or through State-based regulation. Under the threat of heavy sanctions established by the new German legislation known as ‘NetzDG’, Facebook and other platforms have started relying on algorithms to tackle hate speech on their platforms. However, delegation of the responsibility to regulate what is permissible speech from public authorities to private entities, without effective means to ensure transparency, and especially without effective judicial review of decisions to remove content, is creating new threats to the freedom of expression, and fears that it may have a counter-productive effect on combating hate speech, through social reaction and public debate. One of the concerns is that Internet platforms, operating as private companies and in fear on heavy fines, will tend to regulate the content with the broader than necessary margin, removing content that may not reach the legal threshold for restrictions set by the European Court of Human Rights. Therefore, the challenge of how to combat hate speech online is at the forefront of concerns of most European governments, as they feel obliged to respond to a significant threat to democracy and social cohesion, by balancing the protection of free speech, without infringing upon it, and the need to combat hate speech. Internet platforms are also under pressure and willing to engage in the search of adequate solutions. The German law is a pioneering legislation in this area, but has also come under a lot of criticism. The search for a more appropriate and balanced approach is still very much ongoing. The goal of this thesis is to contribute to this search.
Second semester University: University of Ljubljana
hate speech, social networks, law, social responsibility, freedom of expression