Social Media Sites Face Heavy Hate Speech Fines Under German Proposal

Social Media Sites Face Heavy Hate Speech Fines Under German Proposal
March 14 20:03 2017 Print This Article

Germany’s justice minister has proposed a law that could lead to social networks such as Facebook being hit with heavy fines if they fail to remove illegal hate speech from their sites.

Heiko Maas, who has been highly critical of Facebook’s efforts to clamp down on outlawed racist and xenophobic posts, said on Tuesday the new measures could carry penalties of up to €50m (£44m).

He noted the draft law, which will require the approval of Angela Merkel’s cabinet and then parliament, followed several months in which companies had been allowed to take voluntary measures.

“These have proved insufficient, and [the posts] are not being deleted quickly enough,” Maas told reporters, citing data provided by the internet watchdog jugendschutz.net.

A surge of hate speech on Facebook and other social media sites in Germany has raised the political heat on companies, with a general election taking place in September.

Facebook and others pledged in 2015 to examine and remove within 24 hours any hateful comments spreading online, in particular over the mass influx of migrants and refugees. But Maas said on Tuesday that “networks aren’t taking the complaints of their own users seriously enough”.

His draft law stipulates that social networks must offer users clear and easily accessible means to file complaints, review them quickly and delete blatantly illegal content within 24 hours.

Offensive posts would have to be taken down within one week after a complaint is submitted. Companies would also be required to file quarterly reports on their efforts to crack down on hate speech.

Maas’s hard line, among the toughest in the EU, has its critics within the government.

This month the German economy minister, Brigitte Zypries, like Maas a Social Democrat, warned against a sweeping law, saying responsibility for enforcing hate speech legislation should not be “privatised”.

However, the Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed Maas’s proposal, saying stronger measures against “incitement of racial hatred, glorification of National Socialism and Holocaust denial on social media” were urgently required.

[Guardian UK]

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