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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Europe Gets U.S. Tech Leaders to Self-Censor

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have agreed to let private groups decide which content is "hate speech" and should be removed.
Voluntarily silenced.

Voluntarily silenced.

Photographer: GERARD JULIEN,GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

There's a lot about European regulations, or regulatory intentions, that U.S. Internet giants don't like. They hate being described and treated as monopolies, and a mention of paying taxes where they operate -- as European countries have long wanted them to do -- instantly puts them on the defensive. Yet ask Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube to censor their content, and they will happily oblige. Of all the U.S. rules that have allowed them to get as big as they have become, freedom of speech appears to be least important.

The four U.S. companies have accepted a European Union-dictated code of conduct, which obliges them to "review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content." The reviewing is to be done by "civil society organizations" and "trusted reporters": the EU and its member states are to "ensure access" to them.