Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a complaint against Facebook in France, accusing the social network of not doing enough to prevent the spread of false information and hate speech.
The press freedom watchdog said Facebook had committed “deceptive business practices.”
RSF claims that the “massive proliferation” of hateful messages and false information on Facebook violates the platform’s commitments to online users.
in a statementRSF said that the complaint, presented this Monday before the Paris Prosecutor’s Office, was based on “the clear contradiction between the social network’s commitments to consumers and the reality of its operations.”
Euronews has contacted Facebook to obtain a response to the complaint, which has been directed at the company’s subsidiaries in France and Ireland.
“We have zero tolerance for any harmful content on our platforms and we are investing heavily to address hate speech and misinformation,” said a spokesperson.
“We want Facebook to be a place where people feel welcome and safe to express themselves and share their thoughts and ideas,” the spokesperson continued.
“We will act with professional diligence to provide our Products and services to you and to maintain a safe, secure and error-free environment.”
The company has also stepped up its efforts to combat the spread of misinformation online during the COVID-19 pandemic and says it has removed 12 million pieces of content containing harmful misinformation about the coronavirus.
But RSF has claimed that Facebook’s commitments to its users “are largely based on false accusations.”
“Facebook allows disinformation and hatred to spread … in contradiction to its general conditions of use and its advertising campaigns,” the organization said.
The complaint has also alleged that Facebook has become “the main hotbed” of unfounded conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines in French-speaking communities.
RSF also cited a UNESCO 2020 report which identified Facebook as the leading “least secure” platform for violence against women.
Other evidence provided by RSF includes death threats against Charlie Hebdo journalists and the publication of videos such as the documentary “Hold Up”, accused of transmitting conspiracy theories.
According to the NGO, the failure of Facebook to address the spread of hate and disinformation online constitutes a “deceptive commercial practice” according to the French consumer code, a crime punishable by a fine of “up to 10% of the average turnover annual”.
RSF says they have filed the complaint in France because the country’s consumer law is particularly well adapted, but has added that they are considering further action.
“As Facebook’s terms of service are the same across the globe, a court ruling in France on its misleading nature could have a global impact,” he said.
Facebook has not provided further comment on the legal proceedings, but said they have “tripled” the size of its security and protection team in recent years.
“Last month we also introduced special protections for the personal Facebook profiles of journalists in France and other European countries,” a spokesperson said.
“Our app will never be perfect, but while no one can completely remove misinformation and hate speech from the Internet, we continue to use research, experts, and technologies to address them as fully and effectively as possible.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism