Because these speech platforms are so important, the decisions they take become jurisprudence,” said Andrew McLaughlin, who has worked for both Google and the White House. Most vexing among those decisions are ones that involve whether a form of expression is hate speech. Hate speech has no universally accepted definition, legal experts say. And countries, including democratic ones, have widely divergent legal approaches to regulating speech they consider to be offensive or inflammatory. Europe bans neo-Nazi speech, for instance, but courts there have also banned material that offends the religious sensibilities of one group or another. Indian law frowns on speech that could threaten public order. Turkey can shut down a Web site that insults its founding president, Kemal Ataturk. Like the countries, the Internet companies have their own positions, which give them wide latitude on how to interpret expression in different countries.

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