In a world first, Facebook to give data on hate speech suspects to French courts

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is seen at a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F in Paris, France, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

In a world first, Facebook has agreed to hand over the identification data of French users suspected of hate speech on its platform to judges, France’s minister for digital affairs Cedric O said on Tuesday.

O, whose father is South Korean, is one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s earliest followers, and has been influential in shaping the president’s thinking on Big Tech as an advisor at the Elysee palace in the first two years of Macron’s presidency.

The decision by the world’s biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Zuckerberg and Macron, who wants to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online.

So far, Facebook has cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.

Following a meeting between Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, and O last week, the social media company has extended this cooperation to hate speech.

“This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally,” O told Reuters in an interview. “It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.”

O, who said he had been in close contact with Clegg over the last few days on the issue, said Facebook’s decision was the result of an ongoing conversation between the internet giant and the French administration.

Since his nomination as minister in March, O has made the fight against hate speech online a key priority through regular contacts with Facebook’s top executives, including founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook declined to comment.