Published: Wed, March 15, 2017
Health Care | By Kelly Miles

Germany proposes hefty hate speech fines for social media companies

Germany proposes hefty hate speech fines for social media companies

"We have to increase the pressure on social networks".

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.

Back in December, Maas proposed a fine of €500,000 euros, or $530,000, for any item of fake news and hate speech, including racism or statements inciting violence, that isn't removed within 24 hours of being flagged.

However Maas said Tuesday that "networks aren't taking the complaints of their own users seriously enough".

The minister, Heiko Maas, who has been highly critical of Facebook's efforts to clamp down on outlawed racist and xenophobic posts and comments, said the new measures could carry penalties against the offending company of up to 50 million euros ($53 million).

"Too little criminal content is being deleted, and it's not being deleted sufficiently quickly", he told journalists Tuesday.

Mr Maas praised YouTube for much higher rates, standing at 90 per cent of reported content being deleted and 82 per cent within a day.

But he noted fake news could constitute illegal content 'if it constitutes slander, defamation or libel'.

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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.

As well as imposing fines for failing to delete content, the proposal would require companies to provide a round-the-clock service for users to flag illegal content, which would have to be removed by the site within seven days.

It has taken on new urgency as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in September.

His photo was used in Facebook posts accusing him of links to terrorist attacks and the attempted murder of a homeless man in Berlin, with the images remaining online despite a series of attempts to have them removed. It now aims to update these rules for the social media age.

Würzburg district court threw out his case last week, finding that Facebook is "neither a perpetrator or participant in the smears" and criminal responsibility sat with users.

"By the end of the year over 700 people will be working on content review for Facebook in Berlin".

"Companies that don't set up effective complaint management or don't do so properly - in particular by not deleting illegal content completely or in a timely manner - are committing an administrative offense", the Justice Ministry draft says in explaining when the threat of fines applies.

The draft rules would turn the code of conduct 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.

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