Germany kicks year off with strict online hate speech law – CNET


If you report a social media post with hate speech and it’s not taken down in 24 hours, the company could bear a hefty fine in Germany.


Social media companies may have been dreading the fireworks marking the start of the new year.

On Jan. 1, Germany began enforcing strict rules that could fine major internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube up to 50 million euros ($60 million, £44 million, AU$77 million) if they don’t remove posts containing hate speech within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

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The new hate speech rules, passed last June, require companies to maintain an “effective and transparent procedure for dealing with complaints” that users can access readily at anytime. Upon receiving a complaint, social media companies must remove or block “obviously illegal content” within 24 hours, although they have up to a week when dealing with “complex cases.”

Social media companies have faced criticism over the massive volume of hate content on their sites. In June, Facebook said it removes 66,000 such posts every week. The company said it wants to do better but adds that the task is not easy. Last month, Twitter escalated its fight against hate, enforcing an updated policy that bans people from promoting violence and hate in their usernames and bios, and threatens to remove accounts if users tweeted hate speech, symbols and images.

Germany’s government isn’t the only one that wants social media companies to do more about hate speech. While the European Union in mid-2017 acknowledged Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft for doing better at the job, the EU said it managed to block twice the volume of hate content at a faster rate than those companies did in the beginning of the year. 

“We’re committed to being part of the solution to illegal hate speech and extremist content online — around the world, and in Germany, working within its new legal framework,” a YouTube spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement. “We’ll continue to invest heavily in teams and technology to allow us to go further and faster in removing content that breaks our rules or German law, and by working with government, law enforcement, civil society groups and other companies.”

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First published Jan. 1 at 10:15 p.m. PT.
Update, Jan. 2 at 2:07 a.m. PT: Adds comment from YouTube.
Correction, Jan. 2 at 6:50 a.m. PT: Fixes the maximum fine.

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