Germany launches crackdown on social media ‘hate content’ (video)

JANUARY 2, 2018

Germany has begun enforcing its new “hate speech” law, which calls on social media firms to immediately remove perceived “hate speech,” hoax stories and illegal content from their platforms or face a fine of up to 50 million euros.

Social media firms with at least 2 million users now have just 24 hours to remove material that has been flagged to them, according to the new law, known as Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) in Germany.

Back in March, Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced the measure, which is aimed at sites including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and YouTube, but excludes LinkedIn and WhatsApp, according a report in Deutsche Welle. He claimed that it would not restrict freedom of speech in Germany and that there are no plans to create what he called a “truth commission” against fake news.

NetzDG went into effect on Monday and has already claimed its first victim.

According to Business Insider, Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of Germany’s far-right party AfD, came under investigation by the police for recent inflammatory Facebook and Twitter posts describing Muslims as “barbarians.”

In a tweet that has since been deleted, she pointed out that Cologne police were tweeting season’s greetings in Arabic and claimed that this attempts to appease “gang-raping” Muslims.

Reports say she was temporarily blocked from Twitter but has now been reinstated. (See video, below.)

In addition to a 24-hour removal, the law prompts major firms to create structures to ensure that violating content is quickly removed after being reported.

The German Justice Minister will make forms available on its website which citizens can use to file complaints of social media sites violating NetzDG. In certain “complex cases” firms will be given up to a week to remove content, instead of just one day.

In the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere, politicians have begun calling for greater scrutiny of technology firms, but Germany’s NetzDG law is the most extreme example so far.