Facebook agreed Tuesday night to hand French judges the identification data of French users who are suspected of distributing hate speech.
The decision comes after several meetings between Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech. France’s minister for digital affairs Cedric O, one of Macron’s advisers, has been an influential person directing Macron’s thinking on big tech issues.
“This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally,” O told Reuters. “It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.”
Facebook previously refused to provide such identification data because the Silicon Valley company was worried countries without an independent judiciary could abuse it. It was also not required to fork over data under U.S.-French legal conventions. The company has been under intense pressure to crack down on misinformation.
Some are hailing the move, calling it a decision that could have implications across the industry. “It is a strong signal in terms of regulation,” Sonia Cisse, a counsel at law firm Linklaters, told reporters Tuesday. “Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it’s now on the same level as terrorism.”
The decision comes at an awkward moment for government officials and the company. Facebook has increasingly come under fire for being lax with the private data of its users, especially after lawmakers opened an investigation of the company’s decision to provide data to Cambridge Analytica before the 2016 presidential election.
The company disclosed to investors in April that company officials are putting $3 billion aside in the event the Federal Trade Commission fines them for their role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. They have not reached a settlement with the FTC. The fine could be as high as $5 billion.
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