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June 2, 2016

EU Elites Join American Social Media to Define Hate Speech

Facebook is no longer content to suppress “unpleasant” ideas only in America.

Apparently Facebook is no longer content to suppress “unpleasant” (read: conservative) ideas only in America. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media juggernaut has joined equally “enlightened” IT giants Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube in a partnership with the European Commission to produce a Code of Conduct that includes “a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe.” This Social Justice League also aims to “ensure that relevant national laws transposing the Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia are fully enforced by Member States in the online as well as the in the offline environment.” Some members of the European Parliament rightfully branded the move as “Orwellian.”

Nonetheless, spokespeople for each organization assured the public there is nothing to worry about.

“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech,” insists Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people and racists use to spread violence and hatred.”

“Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society,” offers Karen White, Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe. “We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow. However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate.”

“We’re committed to giving people access to information through our services, but we have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms,” claims Lie Junius, Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations Director. “We have efficient systems to review valid notifications in less than 24 hours and to remove illegal content. We are pleased to work with the Commission to develop co- and self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online.”

“We welcome today’s announcement and the chance to continue our work with the Commission and wider tech industry to fight hate speech,” states Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook. “With a global community of 1.6 billion people we work hard to balance giving people the power to express themselves whilst ensuring we provide a respectful environment. As we make clear in our Community Standards, there’s no place for hate speech on Facebook.”

“We value civility and free expression, and so our terms of use prohibit advocating violence and hate speech on Microsoft-hosted consumer services,” says John Frank, Vice President EU Government Affairs at Microsoft. “We recently announced additional steps to specifically prohibit the posting of terrorist content. We will continue to offer our users a way to notify us when they think that our policy is being breached. Joining the Code of Conduct reconfirms our commitment to this important issue.”

It gets worse. In addition to suppressing speech deemed “hateful,” these platforms pledge to promote “counter-narratives” and organizations the EU deems “un-hateful” and to “re-educate” those they brand as hateful. Toward that end they have agreed to establish internal protocols and staff training aimed at guaranteeing an assessment and removal of unlawful content within 24 hours.

Britain’s reliably leftist newspaper The Guardian was somewhat upset with this development — because it didn’t go far enough. That’s because “the limited scope leaves many aspects of online abuse still uncovered: harassment on gender grounds, for instance, is not considered hate speech according to the code of conduct.”

Unlike the Unites States — at least not too much — the EU has established quite a laundry list of hate speech offenses. Under the heading, “Offences Concerning Racism and Xenophobia,” they include “public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined on the basis of race, colour, descent, religion or belief, or national or ethnic origin,” the “public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material” in that regard, and “publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

MEP Janice Atkinson exposes just how wide a net the Commission is casting. “If an MEP, such as the centre-right Hungarians, the Danish People’s Party, the Finns, the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian FPO, say no to migration quotas because they cannot cope with the cultural and religious requirements of Muslims across the Middle East who are seeking refugee status, is that a hate crime?” she asks. “And what is their punishment? It’s a frightening path to totalitarianism.”

It’s also monumentally ironic. No one relishes the suppression of free speech more than those longing to establish a worldwide Islamic Caliphate, or those seeking to maintain virtual gulags under Communist or other tyrannical rule. Much like the American and European Left animating this latest adventure, they also believe they own the franchise on enlightened thinking. Thinking that apparently grants them the power to define slippery terms like racism and xenophobia.

Is it xenophobic to disdain the onslaught of more than a million “refugees” from Middle East nations?

UKIP’s Justice and Home Affairs spokeswoman Diane James brings another dose of perspective to the mix, explaining that the EU was sold as a common market, but has now morphed into a political union that “wishes to decide and compromise our civil liberties as a people.”

It is a move that may ultimately backfire. In a stunning turnaround, a majority of British citizens now appear to be in favor of leaving the EU when the vote on the issue takes place June 23. Those staunchly against a “Brexit” have framed such a move as an economic disaster, or the successful promotion of anti-immigrant sentiment. But maybe much of it is a rejection of exactly the kind of elitist suppression by a transnational European Commission whose members are selected by EU member governments. Maybe like millions of Americans, the British also want their country back. Maybe they don’t want a handful of elitists defining what constitutes “improper” speech that can be eliminated for the “greater good” at best — or prosecuted at worst. And maybe, just maybe, they’re disgusted with the idea of having “counter-narratives” shoved down their collective throats “for their own good.”

And if Britain goes, others are sure to follow. National sovereignty and democracy have ways of catching on.

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