The German parliament is debating a proposal to force social media platforms to either delete hate speech quickly or risk hefty fines.
The problems that many critics point out are the vague definitions of the term “hate speech” and the restrictions that the proposed law may have on freedom of speech. Justice Minister Heiko Maas disagrees, arguing it will only help protect freedom of speech in Germany.
“The point of the proposed legislation is that statements that violate the law must be deleted,” Maas, a Social Democrat, said Friday, according to Deutsche Welle. “These are not examples of freedom of speech. They’re attacks on freedom of speech. The worst danger to freedom of speech is a situation where threats go unpunished.”
Flagrant violations need to be removed within 24 hours while more complex cases have to be removed within one week, according to the proposal. Failure to remove posts may result in fines of up to 50 million euros ($56 million dollars).
“Practice shows that not too much, but too little, gets deleted,” Maas said. “We’re at a crossroads. Should the digital revolution be allowed to continue to call our state, based on law and order, into question?”
The Social Democrats’ coalition partners, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, argue that the law will result in censorship of legitimate speech.
“I cannot understand how Facebook, for example, is qualified to check whether content is illegal,” said Ilse Aigne, Bavarian Economy Minister of the Christian Social Union, according to The Local.
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