According a representative of Facebook at the seventh meeting of the Istanbul Process: ‘social media companies are acutely aware of and determined to help tackle the problem of hate speech, especially after the attacks in Christchurch.’ He argued, however, that progress in this area will only be possible if all relevant stakeholders – social media companies, governments, civil society and faith groups – work together. Unfortunately, however, ‘there is a general lack of trust – social media companies are often portrayed as the enemy.’

The speaker said that Facebook has been investing significantly in research and development to find technology solutions (e.g. algorithms) to identify and take-down hateful content even before it is reported by other users. Unfortunately, however, this is very challenging in practice because of the lack of a precise definition of ‘hate speech’, especially across different social, linguistic and cultural contexts, a desire not to undermine freedom of speech, and a wish not to ‘step on the toes of governments.’

On the point about imprecise definitions of hate speech and the need to protect free speech, Facebook has decided to establish an independent oversight board to review its decisions in this area.