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Can Tech Giants Be Regulated And Be Expected to Comply?

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REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Saintel Daily recently brought you a post that largely talked about hate speech. The post spoke to the idea that we as a society have a role to play when it comes to dealing with hate speech, but tech giants also have a role to play. One that might be even more important. The idea that companies like Facebook, Google or Twitter span beyond borders is really something that we need to think about. I don’t just mean that someone in Germany also has Facebook, but really think about how the German government might apply rules to the internet or online content, different from the United States. This can be confusing if you’re Facebook, so let’s not blame them too much.

Really let that sink in for a moment. Imagine you’re at work, and suddenly you’re told that you don’t have one manager, but now you have 50. Each of those managers has different expectations for your performance and any of the output that you’re producing. How confused would you be? Your head would literally explode every time you walked into the office. So when we talk about tech giants, it’s important to remember that they are literally bigger than the government in this capacity.

Which brings me to the premise of this article. Australia has introduced a law that seeks to punish social networks and any other hosting service for failing to remove violent content from their platforms. My question: is this a fair regulation to place on social networks? All of these tech companies are global, which means people use their platforms all over the world. But is the company itself global? Or are they headquartered in the United States only?

Where I’m going with this is if Australia now imposes this restriction, does Facebook have to ramp up their efforts in Australia? And how can they limit that? Think about it from this perspective. If you’re a business that operates out of the UK, you can have a URL that ends in .uk. Similarly, if you’re a Canadian business, you can have a URL that ends in .ca. Which means Facebook will now have to figure out how to remove content to Australian users only. That’s not to say that this content shouldn’t be removed always, but this is where the idea of Facebook becomes tricky. They have a law in Australia that says – if you don’t remove content fast enough, you could be fined. But maybe that law doesn’t exist in Germany. Are they faster to remove content in Australia because they could face a fine up to 10 percent of their annual profit?

All of this circles back to the previous article I wrote about hate speech. Is this a form of censorship? Will Facebook be required to take down posts before they’ve had the opportunity to vet them, in order to comply with these rules? And how will all of these companies do it? It’s not just Facebook. It’s Twitter and Google also. While I think that regulation needs to be considered, I also think that there are more kinks that need to be ironed out before that can happen effectively.

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