Facebook has agreed to hand over the identification data of French users suspected of hate speech on its platform to judges, France’s minister for digital affairs Cedric O said on Tuesday, adding the deal was a world first.
The move by the world’s biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online.
So far, Facebook has cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.
Following a meeting between Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, and O last week, the social media company has extended this cooperation to hate speech.
“This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally,” O, a former top adviser to Macron, told Reuters in an interview. “It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.”
O, who said he had been in close contact with Clegg over the last few days on the issue, said Facebook’s decision was the result of an ongoing conversation between the internet giant and the French administration.
Facebook declined to comment.
The discussions started off with a Zuckerberg-Macron meeting last year, followed by a report on tech regulation last month that Facebook’s founder considered could be a blueprint for wider EU regulation.
Facebook had refrained from handing over identification data of people suspected of hate speech because it was not compelled to do so under U.S.-French legal conventions and because it was worried countries without an independent judiciary could abuse it.
France’s parliament, where Macron’s ruling party has a comfortable majority, is debating legislation that would give the new regulator the power to fine tech companies up to 4% of their global revenue if they don’t do enough to remove hateful content from their network.