The National Communications Commission (NCC) on Tuesday said that it is monitoring how EU members plan to enforce a law that would require social media to remove hate speech, adding that there remain issues that need to be addressed first to ensure the effectiveness of the policy.
The commission’s comments followed a ruling on Friday last week by the Viennese appeals court that requires Facebook to remove posts attacking Austrian Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig as well as any verbatim reposts.
Facebook was specifically instructed by the Austrian court that the removal of the posts must take place across the board, not just in Austria.
The German government last month approved a plan to fine social media up to 50 million euros (US$54.5 million) if they fail to take down posts involving hateful comments or falsified information within 24 hours after they are flagged by users.
The bill proposed by Germany’s Cabinet to ban hate speech and fake news on social networks would still have to be deliberated and passed by the German parliament before it becomes law, Department of Broadcasting and Content Department Director Huang Chin-yi (黃金益) said.
However, whether other EU members would follow in Germany’s footsteps with legislation against hate speech on social media remains to be seen, he said, adding that the commission would closely monitor the latest development in other nations.
Huang said that a draft digital communication act, which was proposed by the commission and has been submitted to the Executive Yuan for review, does not specifically regulate hate speech, but it does formally state laws and regulations that apply in the real world also apply to offenses committed in cyberspace.
People should not think that the things they do on the Internet would not have any legal consequences, he said.
For example, Huang said the Criminal Code would apply if the contents of online hate speech are determined to be defamatory statements that someone makes to hurt another person’s reputation.
Media regulators have been focusing on the consequences of hate speech spread through the Internet, particularly online statements targeting specific ethnicities or religions, he said, but in terms of hate speech, Taiwan’s situation was not as serious as in Europe.
European nations appeared to be prompt in addressing the problems caused by hate speech, Huang said, but enforcing rules to regulate online speech could give rise to yet other issues.
“Our investigation of the proposed regulations on hate speech in Germany show that some Germans disapprove of the policy or express doubts, especially with regards to its potential conflict with freedom of speech and possible impact on society,” he said.
Huang said the definition of hate speech could vary from nation to nation, and whether it is legitimate to require social media to delete comments across the board when they are considered hateful speech in any one nation was subject to debate.
Facebook designates content as hate speech if it attacks people based on “their actual perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or disease,” the company states on its Web site.
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