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Commentary: EU should not make platforms the judges of free speech

Author: Nick Wallace, EU Observer, Published on: 29 March 2018

[A] recent threat by the European Commission to hold platforms responsible for their users' posts [c]ould [...] push... platforms to remove anything they are unsure about before any court has ruled it illegal...

On 1 March, the commission issued a recommendation [...] demanding that online platforms take "proactive measures" to remove all varieties of illegal content posted by users...

The commission threatened regulation if platforms do not comply.

But increasing platforms' liability would drastically alter the effects of the different national laws on free speech.

The threat of fines, combined with the grey areas inherent to laws limiting what people can say, would push platforms to remove content whenever in doubt, even where a court might let it remain online...

Naturally, platforms should comply with court orders and be punished when they do not, but to safeguard free speech, claims of hate speech, illegally "offensive" messages, or similar allegations should be judged in court on a case-by-case basis.

If the EU makes platforms liable for what their users post, then throughout Europe, the threat of fines will pressure platforms to delete all dubious content, [...] limiting opportunities to challenge allegations of hate speech, and stifling public debate.

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