New German Law Forces Facebook To Remove Hate Speech Or Pay Over $74 Million

Germany's parliament passed a law on Friday that forces social media sites to quickly take down illegal and slanderous content or face a fine of €50 million ($74.3 million). The new rule affects Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other sites with more than two million users.

Source: AP

Under the Network Enforcement Act, which goes into effect in October, social media sites have 24 hours to remove content that is illegal in Germany -- such as swastikas, pro-Nazi messages or Holocaust denials. Companies have a week to decide whether or not to delete posts that are offensive but aren't defamatory and don't incite violence -- content that the law refers to as "evidently unlawful".

However, as Mirko Hohmann and Alexander Pirang of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin point out in a blog post claiming the law is a "minefield for US tech", the law does not clarify what criteria social media site should use for determining what is offensive enough to be removed. They also observe that the law doesn't clarify whether this applies to content that was posted outside of Germany.

Country-specific laws present an difficult question for global social network platforms. For example, in Turkey, a leader of Twitter censorship, the government often asks Twitter to block users. The social media company denies many requests, but it does remove some users that violate local laws. The policy affects many users in a country that has broad anti-terrorism laws, and it has even led to Twitter blocking verified journalists. Twitter has not been clear about the criteria it uses to determine what tweets are illegal in Turkey.

After the German law, known commonly as "the Facebook law", was passed, Facebook shared a statement with several news outlets criticising the new rules. "We share the goal of the German government to fight hate-speech. We have been working hard on this problem and have made substantial progress in removing illegal content," the statement reads. "We believe the best solutions will be found when government, civil society, and industry work together and that this law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem."

In an address on Friday, one of the main supporters of the bill, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, said, "Freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins," explaining that hateful speech only serves to silence free speech. "To protect the freedom of expression, we must prevent a climate of fear and intimidation."

Germany has some of the strictest hate speech laws in the world. Both xenophobic statements and Nazi propaganda can lead to prison sentences. In recent years, the country has ramped up efforts to police hate speech amidst the rise of nationalism and hatred towards refugees and migrants.

In December 2015, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube-owner Google agreed to remove hate speech posted online in Germany within a day of posting, but a report published in March showed that the tech giants were doing little to uphold the promise. That report inspired Maas to propose this law.

Over the last year, German police have started cracking down on online hate speech violations. In July 2016, police raided the homes of 60 people accused of posting racist and extreme messages on social media. Earlier this month, German police also raided the homes of 36 people accused of posting hate speech online.

In April, Maas explained his reasoning for the proposed law to a German public broadcaster ARD, saying that the German government could no longer allow tech companies to ignore the hate speech laws and that the only way to dramatically reduce extremists postings was to hold social media sites financially accountable.

[The Verge, New York Times, Council on Foreign Relations]



    does it strike anyone as funny they the suppress the expression of views rather the deal with underlying causes of them.
    Feels like they are playing with a pressure cooker

      It's all about control. The idea if you make it hard for people to say and think what they want, then the idea will go away. Which is nonsense. It points to the larger problem where no one is willing to debate or discuss. People are told what to think and it is having a back lash. People automatically know someone is wrong. I think people treat ideas as a disease that infects people and there's an assumption only stupid people have bad ideas. Which in turn is things you disagree with.

      Looking at the rise of conservatives in modern politics. If someone raises a concern about something like immigration. They are instantly labelled racist. Shut down and not engaged with. Labeled, insulted, silenced and banned. Not addressing why, means anyone that acknowledges their concern can get some political support. Whether it's a Trump, a Pauline Hanson or whomever. People don't have concerns out of nowhere some concerns may be legitimate or not. Or there may be legitimate reasons someone has a concern which isn't legitimate. Not engaging does nothing but push these people away and those engaging are not the people who will address any illegitimate concerns.

      This is getting away from this to do with Nazis are bad, no question but I'm sure this expands a lot past that. Hate speech can be broadly applied. I once went to a lecture by a group that lobbies Facebook to take down hate crime groups. It ran the gamut from pro Isis, anti-immigrant, white supremacist and various other things detestable. The thing that concerned me was, it also went into politically contentious issues. Anti-war groups, Israel/Palestine groups (one side of that issue). One example was one anti-war group that someone had posted some bad taste memes of ANZAC soldiers. That was enough to get taken down.

      It also seemed they were waiting for a user to post something that pushed the line then lobby facebook to get the group closed down. One dickhead posting one comment or meme that went too far was apparently enough to get a whole group shut down. Now that doesn't seem open to abuse does it? It was very much they didn't approve of a group and if it didn't cross a line they were waiting for pounce the second anyone posting there did. While a bad taste meme on facebook is one thing, this attitude applies to someone having a "bad idea" which is necessary to get good ideas and thinking for ones self.

        This is about stopping HATE speech not FREE speech. Hate speech takes away another group/persons free speech. I am free to talk about immigration but teaching others to hate migrants and then run them over in vans is not acceptable. If you have facts to share about refugees that's Free speech. Calling for a "Final Solution" is not. We appear to all get this when talking about shutting down ISIS hate preacers from social media and I don't see why there should be double standards.

          How some view that hate speech vs free speech, is that all speech is free but a call to arms is not protected "yelling fire is a crowded place"
          So a Muslim preacher is free to say we day agree with a homosexual lifestyle but they cant call for harm to come to then (call to action)
          Free speech is not protected here.
          tho i do think if someone takes offence to what you say, that's a crime is too far. When someone says they love collingwood im offended

            "I think we need to stop refugees entering this country because they are causing socio-economic problems." ( You may not like me for saying this but it's not inviting hate) "Half the refugees coming into this country are rapists and they should all be stopped." Two statements calling for a ban on refugees, one Free speech, one Hate. Yes there will be a grey area but the aim is to stamp out the extremists, be they, Muslim, Christian or Fascists. We are watching the results as both far right and religious extremists killing based purely on what that are reading and hearing from hate preachers.
            The real debate is actually about truthfulness and honestly but that is much harder.

              i think the problem is that we don't have national leaders that actually lead with their speech so to speak, then we have the crack pots or loons filling up there little groups heads with what ever garbage they subscribe to.

                Yes! We have arrived at a place where any leadership on "intelligence" is almost forbidden. Ignorance is now celebrated and considered as valuable as knowledge.

              Depending on the law both of them could be protected since you didn't specify where the refugees came from.

              From wiki"The Racial Discrimination Act 1975" "is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person, or of some or all of the people in the group"

          The problem is that what is now termed 'hate speech' is ultimately defined by political leanings and the loudest shouting faction. I have no issues with removing hate speech but the definition is being more and more warped to 'opinions I disagree with.'

          You can cry "kill all men" and have it labelled as shirty social commentary lol, but "kill all women" is hate speech (and rightly so). Facebook rightly shut down Blokes Advice, but ignores Bad Girls Advice despite being guilty of the same stuff. As the definition shifts in the name of 'equity' it becomes ever more problematic.

          Again, not saying I disagree with this move nor that hate speech (actual malicious hate speech) shouldn't be removed - but that the definition is becoming ever more malleable, and I wonder where it will end.

            It does feel like we are using the wrong hammer to crack the right nut.

          lee978: "This is about stopping HATE speech not FREE speech."

          So how about defining what hate speech is? Does Donald Trump's tweets against Mike Brezeninski and Joe Scarborough constitute hate speech? What about his latest tweet against CNN (the one depicting a fake video showing violence against a CNN reporter)?

          What about a comment comparing Turkey's president to Gollum from Lord of the Rings? Turkey's president seems to think so because he's had people arrested and punished for that sort of thing.

          lee978: "I am free to talk about immigration but teaching others to hate migrants and then run them over in vans is not acceptable."

          Really? But who gets to decide whether something is hate speech or not? Does a mere claim from somebody suffice? Who arbitrates whether something is hate speech? A court of law or does the Internet company who owns the site decide them? Do the person affected get to present a defence or is it all to be decided behind closed doors by faceless people and no input from those affected--other than the person who made the claim?

          Can the decision be appealed? And if so who to?

          Do the law apply only to Germans or to every post, tweet, video, etc that Germans came read/view?

          In short, does Germany claim to rule the world--or at least what people outside Germany say or post on social media?

            I'm not sure what you are saying, Germany shouldn't do this because it's too hard, was that your argument?
            Twitter and Facebook have already barred Extremists from their platform. I trust you approve that ISIS & Far Right groups can no longer use the platforms to recruit members and spread their violence?
            This is just a mechanism to ensure that content that is illegal in Germany is taken down ASAP and not left to the discretion of Twitter & Facebook. In other words ensuring they uphold German laws. Is that not acceptable or should we allow some laws to be broken on social media that are not allowed in normal society?
            Sorry but I don't know anything about the examples you gave.

        Nicely written, some interesting points about how others can use it to shut down whole groups they disagree with.
        i agree there is no debate anymore

    While Facebook looks under some seat cushions going "where did I put that 80 million dollars"

    Ohh look its SHIELD LOL

    To those claiming this is clamping down on free speech.

    America has already has laws against hate speech. Yes the USA, The supposed land of freedom. Freedom of speech does not give you freedom to be an areshole. If you say racially insensitive things or anything alike intentionally to be a prick, You deserve to be dragged before a court.

    Germany once again leads the world , jackboots and all into the great world of Fascism.
    Anyone with a contrary opinion to the state narrative will be deemed a terrorist and marched away to a re education centre...welcome to your brave new world

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