Saturday, July 01, 2017

German law against online hate speech admirable but hard to enforce

The German Bundestag has just passed a controversial law calling on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to police their own websites for "obviously illegal" content, such as hate speech, defamation and incitements to violence, and to remove them within 24 hours.
Under a previous 2015 deal with the German government, Facebook, Twitter and Google resolved to take down such material from their sites within 24 hours, but a study this year showed that this voluntary approach was not working. Now, the companies would face an initial fine of €5 million, rising to €50 million, although they are granted upto a week to resolve more difficult or less clear-cut cases.
Germany has strict laws against hate speech, which is an increasing problem online. Critics and digital rights activists, though, maintain that the law infringes on free speech and puts a disproportionate onus on tech companies for determining the legality of online content.
Both Facebook and Google have already launched campaigns to combat fake news and hate speech in recent months, and Facebook is reportedly hiring an additional 3,000 people over the next year specifically to moderate such flagged content. But it is admittedly a huge, and perhaps even impossible, task. It will be interesting to see whether and how the new German law is enforced.

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