The president of the Italian parliament’s lower house, Laura Boldrini, has published an open letter to Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, taking him to task for failing to control hate speech and fake news on his platform. “I strongly believe that fake news … is harmful for people and is often the antechamber of hate speech,” Boldrini wrote.
Boldrini wrote that Facebook provided “little cooperation” with the Italian authorities in contrast to Germany and France. The social media platform has been under pressure in those countries to regulate and remove posts containing hate speech. Boldrini launched a campaign against fake news last week.
Boldrini has been the target of rape and other threats herself. She posted some of those messages on Facebook on Nov. 25 last year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. A Facebook vice president in charge of public policy for Europe, Richard Allan, got in touch after seeing it, she writes.
Boldrini said she proposed three measures that Facebook could take to remove hate-speech postings more swiftly, including opening an office in Italy to deal with the issue, at a meeting with Allan. Facebook has an office in Milan that had 15 employees in 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). “Two months on and I have received only evasive and generic responses to my proposals,” Boldrini wrote. “At this point, Mr Zuckerberg, I ask you the following question: in this issue, on which side does Facebook stand?”
A Facebook spokesperson told Quartz that it considers all proposals from Boldrini to be “worthy of attention” and that they had been relayed to the company’s “highest corporate levels.” “Neither companies, nor politicians or the civil society can tackle these challenges by themselves. We welcome our close ongoing dialogue with President Boldrini,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
With elections due in France and Germany this year, Europe has become an important battleground over the intertwined problems of hate speech and fake news. European politicians have been taking the lead by placing increasing pressure on Facebook over its moderation policies.
German lawmakers are mulling a €500,000 fine ($528,000) for each item of hate speech that stays on the platform for over 24 hours. A Quartz analysis previously found a large proportion of hate speech on Facebook remained on the platform after the statutory 24-hour period. Norway’s prime minister protested Facebook’s decision to ban an iconic war photograph that showed child nudity. Facebook walked back that decision under public pressure.