Germany threatens $53 million fine to social networks in hate-speech bill

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas attends a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin Germany

"This will set binding standards for how companies running social networks must handle complaints and require them to delete criminal content".

Heiko Maas, the justice minister, said: "There must be as little space for criminal incitement and slander on social networks as on the streets".

As reported by the New York Times, German authorities are seeking, as a standard, the deletion of at least 70 percent of inappropriate and illegal posts within 24 hours of being flagged.

Though acknowledging that some companies' own commitments had led to initial improvements, Maas said these were not yet sufficient.

Proposals for the fines, which include up to €5 million for the individual held responsible at the social network company, were made by Germany's justice minister.

He said that of the content reported by users deemed to run afoul of Germany's strict hate speech laws, Twitter only took down one percent and Facebook 39 percent.

This move comes after new research into the platforms' abilities to take down illegal content showed that too few posts are removed, according to justice minister Heiko Maas, and that deleted posts are not taken down quick enough. YouTube, however, deleted 90 per cent of flagged content, 82 per cent which was removed within a day.


Mr Maas said the measures, which will become part of a bill to be put before Parliament, would not restrict freedom of speech that already exists in Germany and there were no plans to create a "truth commission" against so-called fake news.

In a preliminary ruling, the Würzburg district court said that Facebook was neither a "perpetrator nor a participant" in what it nevertheless described as an "indisputable defamation" by Facebook users.

Under the law, companies could face up to 50 million euros - or $53 million - in fines for not responding quickly to complaints of hate speech.

Facebook, reached by the BBC, declined to comment on the proposed law, but said its privately commissioned tests found that a higher percentage of flagged content is removed than the government survey found.

The new draft rules turn these into legal obligations to delete or remove illegal content, to report regularly on the volume of filed complaints and they also demand that sites make it easier for users to complain about offensive content.

It has taken on new urgency as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in September. Currently, it often takes providers far too long to remove or block such content.

"It's important that the internet companies and politicians take this problem seriously".

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