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Sweden threatens action to stop Facebook 'hate and lies'

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Sweden threatens action to stop Facebook 'hate and lies'
Should Facebook crack down on hate speech? Photo: AP Photo/dapd, Timur Emek
12:19 CET+01:00
Sweden could impose legal obligations on Facebook as a last resort if the social network does not crack down on hate speech and fake news, the culture and democracy minister has threatened.

Alice Bah Kuhnke told the Expressen tabloid that she plans to invite Facebook's representatives in Sweden to discuss recent debate accusing the social media giant of enabling its users to use the platform to share fake news and hate speech without doing anything to clamp down on it.

"Facebook undeniably has great responsibility for its product and its platform. It has a responsibility for all the fantastic things there, but also for the hate and lies being spread there," she said.

"I am convinced that they don't want to be an arena for threats, hate and fake news."

The debate about manufactured news circulating online and on social media came to a head during the US election campaign, but has had a wider impact – for example on Sweden, where fake reports were recently shared falsely claiming that Sweden had banned Christmas lights for religious reasons.

READ ALSO: No, Sweden has not banned Christmas lights


Alice Bah Kuhnke in her office. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The minister spoke after Swedish comedian and commentator Jonas Gardell wrote an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to consider his own place in a so-called post-truth world, and suggesting appointing a publisher in each country to be legally accountable for the site.

And Bah Kuhnke suggested that she was not opposed to legislating against Facebook as a last resort if it does not actively take steps to stop its users sharing hate speech or fake content.

"There are many who see that it has crossed the line, but we all want the process of change to be voluntary. If that does not succeed, we are many governments and ministers in the Nordics who are prepared to take the next step," she told Expressen.

When asked what that would be, she said: "The next step would be to develop enforcement action. But then, we also interfere with the freedoms and opportunities that we have got used to. That's not a road we want to take, I really want to stress that. But nor can we stand helpless in the face of hatred."

The Local has attempted to contact Facebook's public relations team in Sweden. Zuckerberg wrote in a post last month that he and his team were working on a strategy to prevent the sharing of misinformation.

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