Germany: Social media giants may face €50m fines over hate-speech
In a bid to regulate hate speech on social media, the German Parliament voted in favour of a law that mandates social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter to take down posts containing hate speech or criminal content.
The strictest law of its kind, companies will be charged 5-50 million euros as penalty on failure to comply.
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Why is this being done?
The law came about in the background of a number of incidents of hate speech being spread through German social media.
Heiko Mass, German Justice minister rationalized the law on experience indicating that large platform operators wouldn't take down illegal content without political pressure.
He further conveyed to the Parliament that online hate crimes had increased by about 300% in the past few years.
What is the new law about?
The new law called 'Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz' penalizes social media companies with more than 2 million users, to take down "obviously illegal content" within 24 hours.
A 7-day period is allowed to assess content which is not obviously illegal.
Depending on the gravity of the content, failure to do so will result in a fine of 5 million Euros to 50 million Euros.
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Could this affect freedom of expression?
Expressing concerns on NetzDG, human rights activists note that the bill's passage has been rushed for "political expediency."
Many violations listed under the law are contextual in nature, making it hard for platforms to assess their legality.
Further, much of the content posted as fake news is not illegal per se, under German law.
Activists also worry that this could affect freedom of expression.
Facebook and illegal content
Facebook recently announced that it has made "substantial progress" in taking illegal content down. It also announced the hiring of about 300 employees to monitor such reports. However, it issued a statement indicating that NetzDG "will not improve efforts to tackle the problem".