Social Media Companies with Massive ‘Hate Speech’ Fines
April 05, 2017
Germany has threatened to slap social media companies with huge fines if
they do not act quickly enough to remove “hate speech” from their
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday approved a measure that
would fine websites like Facebook and Twitter up to $55 million if they
do not do enough to censor comments that violate German speech law.
"Hate crimes that are not effectively combatted and prosecuted pose a
great danger to the peaceful cohesion of a free, open and democratic
society," said Merkel's government in a statement.
Germany outright bans any speech that overtly promotes racism or insults
a certain segment of the population. It also, due to its Nazi past, bans
public Holocaust denial.
The draft legislation would require social media companies to remove any
illegal speech within 24 hours of it being flagged by users. Other
offensive content would need to be removed within seven days of being
reported and reviewed.
The German Federation of Journalists blasted the move and said the
legislation would make it “difficult to reconcile freedom of the press
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the companies are responsible
for policing and removing hateful content from their sites and that
“there is no room for criminal incitement on social media.”
internet affects the culture of debate and the atmosphere in our
society. Verbal radicalization is often a preliminary stage to physical
violence,” he added.
The massive flow of refugees into Germany over the past two years has
fueled a rise in negative online comments, alarming German authorities.
In 2015, the social media companies agreed to step up policing of online
hate speech, though Maas said they have not done enough.
Mass cited research that claims Twitter removes just one percent of the
illegal content flagged by users within 24 hours, while Facebook removes
39 percent. Facebook rejected Mass’s data, citing its own data that
shows it removes about 65 percent of illegal content within a day.
German lawmaker Renate Kuenast called the fines “an invitation to not
just erase real insults, but to wipe out almost everything for the sake
of playing it safe.”
The bill still needs to be approved by parliament.
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