US tech giants may find their future shaped by Europe

Silicon Valley is a uniquely American creation, the product of an entrepreneurial spirit and no-holds-barred capitalism that now drives many aspects of modern life.

But the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple are increasingly facing an uncomfortable truth: it is Europe’s culture of tougher oversight of companies, not America’s laissez-faire attitude, which could soon rule their industry as governments seek to combat fake news and prevent extremists from using the internet to fan the flames of hatred.

While the U.S. has largely relied on market forces to regulate content in a country where free speech is revered, European officials have shown they are willing to act. Germany recently passed a law imposing fines of up to 50 million euros ($59 million) on websites that don’t remove hate speech within 24 hours. British Prime Minister Theresa May wants companies to take down extremist material within two hours. And across the EU, Google has for years been obliged to remove search results if there is a legitimate complaint about the content’s veracity or relevance.

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