Germany to Fine Social Networks Over Hate Speech

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Germany , known to enact some of the world’s toughest laws covering defamation, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence has approved strict new standards that would force social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to regulate bogus news and hate speech.

The law includes fines as much as €50 million (N20.1bn) for sites that fail to obey by not removing hateful postings quickly. The new rules call for social media sites to delete at least 70 percent of inappropriate and illegal posts within 24 hours of their postings.

Facebook has pushed back against the rules, insisting that it takes the issue very seriously, but also calling it “highly complex.” We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue. By the end of the year, over 700 people will be working on content review for Facebook in Berlin, a Facebook representative said.

In January, Facebook announced a partnership with Correctiv, a German third-party fact-checking organization.

Bitkom, an association which represents digital companies, said the government should build up specialist teams to monitor online content for potential infringements, rather than expect social networks to do it themselves.

“Given the short deadlines and the severe penalties, providers will be forced to delete doubtful statements as a precaution. That would have a serious impact on free speech on the internet,” said Bitkom Manager , Bernhard Rohleder.

Since it was unveiled last month, the draft law has been amended to include new categories of content, such as child pornography. It also now allows courts to order social networks to reveal the identity of the user behind criminal posts.

To address free speech concerns in Germany, the legislation was tweaked to make clear that a fine would not necessarily be imposed after just one breach of the law. “It is clear that freedom of expression is of huge importance in our vibrant democracy , however, freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins,” Maas said.

He explained that a government survey showed Facebook deleted just 39 percent of content deemed criminal and Twitter only 1 percent, even though they signed a code of conduct in late 2015 including a pledge to delete hate speech within 24 hours.