Top Official in Italy Says Facebook Must Act on Hate Speech

On Monday, the president of the lower house of parliament in Italy said Facebook needs to do more to end hate speech on the social media site. She warned that increasing abuse on a number of social media sites was driven by the increase of fake news.

The Italian lawmaker, Laura Boldrini, is herself the focus often times of online threats and sexist insults. She complained last November to managers at Facebook about the hate speech on the site and pressured them to handle the problem.

In parliament on Monday, she told lawmakers that two months following her meeting at Facebook, nothing has been done by the social media site. She said Facebook has not even written her a letter regarding what she said.

Boldrini said that now she would send an open letter to CEO and founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg reiterating the call she made in November for more timely and effective policing of Facebook.

In a prepared statement, Facebook said it has also been committed to fighting against fake news and hate speech, and was working with a number of institutions in Italy to fight against cyber bulling.

YouTube, Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook all agreed early in 2016 to a code of conduct for the European Union to fight hate speech online, pledging a review of most of the valid requests to remove illegal abuse in less than 24 hour across Europe.

Nevertheless, a report released last December by the European Commission says that just 40% of the hate speech has been reviewed in the first 24 hours of being posted, with big variations from one country to another.

For example, in Italy only 4% of the posts with hate speech were removed within a period of 24 hours said the report.

Boldrini, who is Italy’s third highest official behind just the president and the upper house Senate president said she is deluged on a regular basis with abuse. Last November she published a number of the offending posts.

Despite flagging those insults to managers of Facebook, many remained on her page, said Boldrini.

One request she made was to have Facebook open a complete office in Italy, as the country has over 28 million Facebook users.

Currently, complaints from Italy are handled in Ireland at the European headquarters of the company. However, Boldrini said Facebook did not tell her how many employees in Ireland spoke Italian.