Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites could face fines of up to $53 million in Germany for failure to remove hate speech or ‘fake news’ in a timely fashion from their sites.
German justice minister Heiko Maas has vowed to present a bill to parliament that would punish social networks that do not respond quickly enough to complaints about illegal posts such as libel, slander, public prosecutions, crimes and threats.
“The new figures collected by the organization jugendschutz.net show that too few criminal contents will be deleted. And they are not erased quickly enough. The biggest problem is that the networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough,” Maas said in a statement. “Therefore, it is now clear that we must increase the pressure on social networks. We need legal regulations to make companies even more obligated to eradicate criminal offenses.”
The draft law, if passed, would force social media firms to not only make it easier for members to report offensive content, but to respond to said complaints more quickly. All “obviously criminal content” would have to be taken down within 24 hours. The networks would have a full week to remove posts that were less obvious in nature.
Social media companies would also be obligated to submit quarterly reports regarding the handling of complaints as well as the content relevant to criminal law.The reports must also be made accessible to the public. Failure to comply with the law would result in fines as high as $53 million.
Maas’ threat comes just four months after Facebook and Twitter reached an agreement with his country to remove hate speech from their sites within 24 hours of it being reported. The agreement with the social networks came about after a few months of talks with each company. Racist posts have increased since Germany announced it would take in up to one million migrants and refugees in 2015. The influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has angered nationalists, in particular neo-Nazi groups.
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.