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Every country is grappling with toxic underbelly of the internet: EU Ambassador

Every country is grappling with toxic underbelly of the internet: EU Ambassador

Diplomatic Correspondent

Implementing regulations to curb violence and hate crimes on social media while ensuring the protection of legitimate free speech is urgent, said European Union Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley.

“We’ve regulated (this) in Europe through our Digital Services Act, which puts an onus on companies like Meta and so on. For example, if they don't take hate speech down very quickly from the internet, there will be consequences in the European market,” he said while responding to a question at DCAB Talk.

Referring to the inaction of the platforms to stop the spread of violence, the EU envoy said, “Every country is grappling with the toxic underbelly of the internet and the impact it is having on society.”

The ambassador said there is also discussion about how further steps can be taken and the same debates are happening in Bangladesh.

“So, of course, you’ve had the DSA, you’ve had the Cyber Security Act, and you’re talking about how to address disinformation. But the key point underpinning everything is you have to do it in a way that preserves and respects the right to freedom of speech, the right to freedom of expression,” Whiteley said.

He said a responsible government has to navigate this very fine line between stopping violence, stopping hate crime, and allowing legitimate free speech.

“And I think we can all learn from each other. And that's what we're doing. Some of our member states have different traditions in this respect in the EU. Certainly, America has a different approach. You know, far different levels of tolerance for certain forms of speech than you'd see in European legislation. So, we have our traditions, but the key thing is we all need to have freedom of speech. Or we also need security and safety in our societies. And it's a tricky conundrum,” the ambassador said.

There have been frequent complaints from minority leaders, civil society members, anti-war crimes campaigners, families of war heroes and martyrs that Facebook failed to stop the tide of hate speech or incitement of communal violence in Bangladesh.

The latest report of FB on Bangladesh has also drawn flak from the same community members.

The ALBD Web Team has called Meta’s latest report “biased and flawed.”

Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) hosted the event. DCAB President Nurul Islam Hasib and its General Secretary Ashiqur Rahman Apu also spoke at the event.

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