Published: Thu, April 06, 2017
Markets | By Lucia Cruz

Germany approves plan to punish social media for unchecked hate speech

Germany approves plan to punish social media for unchecked hate speech

Germany moved forward Wednesday with a legislation that would implement heavy fines on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, for failing to quickly remove hate speech and fake news, according to Deutsche Welle.

Germany already has some of the world's toughest hate speech laws covering defamation, slander, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, backed up by prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities.

Today, the German cabinet voted to approve those standards - which include fines of as much as €50 million ($53 million) for sites that fail to comply.

The draft law stills require approval from parliament, which is dominated by Merkel's grand right-left coalition.

The web companies had pledged in 2015 to examine and remove within 24 hours any hateful comments, but in a recent report tracking progress on this front, justice minister Heiko Maas said not enough was done. "We want to continue the process at European level".

The waitress had begun her one-woman campaign against online hate speech after a friend shared an objectionable cartoon on Facebook.

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"This legislation would force private companies rather than the courts to become the judges of what is illegal in Germany", he said, adding that Facebook's partner Arvato would employ up to 700 staff in Berlin for "content moderation" by year's end.

"Given the short deadlines and the severe penalties, providers will be forced to delete doubtful statements as a precaution", Bernhard Rohleder from the trade association Bitkom, told Reuters.

Angela Merkel's cabinet voted on the measures amid concerns over free speech, with campaigners, technology firms and journalists raising fears tightened regulations could restrict expression.

"We can not accept anymore that companies in Germany don't abide by the law", Maas told German TV channel ARD.

Mr Maas said Twitter took down only 1 per cent, and Facebook 39 per cent, of the content reported by users that was deemed to flout Germany's anti-hate speech laws.

The proposed legislation says that "openly offensive" content should be deleted by social networks within 24 hours after being reported by users, while content whose nature is not clearly offensive should be examined and removed within a week if its illegality is confirmed.

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