Brussels — Facebook faces a criminal complaint in France from a press-freedom group that accuses the social network of illegally allowing the spread of disinformation and hate speech on its platform.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it filed the case with the Paris public prosecutor on March 22, alleging that the US giant allows “the large-scale proliferation of hate speech and false information on its networks” despite its promise of a “safe” and “error-free” online environment.

If a probe is opened, it could lead to sanctions of as much as 10% of the company’s revenue in Europe, Antoine Bernard, RSF’s adviser for international litigation, said on Tuesday.

Facebook and Alphabet’s Google have come under intense scrutiny for the dissemination of hate speech and terror propaganda, as well as failing to halt the spread of disinformation during the 2016 US presidential election and the UK’s Brexit vote.

In December, the European Commission proposed new rules that could punish companies with fines of as much as 6% of global revenue if they don’t comply with orders to remove illegal content, including violent hate speech.

Facebook said in a statement that “it has zero tolerance for any harmful content on our platforms”.

“Over the past few years, we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team to 35,000 and built artificial intelligence technology to proactively find and remove harmful content,” Facebook said in a statement. “While nobody can eliminate misinformation and hate speech from the internet entirely, we continue using research, experts and technologies to tackle them in the most comprehensive and effective way possible.”

While RSF filed the complaint in France, the group said it’s considering filing similar cases in other countries. The goal is for prosecutors to open a preliminary probe, Bernard said.



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