Social media companies will face fines of up to 50 million euros ($57 million) in Germany if they fail to delete “hate speech” in a timely manner.
The German parliament approved the measure Friday after a longstanding debate on the effects of racism and hatred online. Critics argue the new law will threaten free speech and force social media giants to censor and delete legitimate posts to be safe. Another common argument is “hate speech” is loosely defined.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas has pushed for the law, arguing it promotes free speech rather than censoring it.
“Death threats and insults, incitement to hate or [Holocaust denial] are not part of freedom of expression — rather, they are attacks against other people’s freedom of opinion,” Maas said before the vote, according to AFP. “They are intended to intimidate and mute others.”
Flagrant violations need to be removed within 24 hours while more complex cases have to be removed within one week, according to the new law. The government empathized that million-dollar fines will only be imposed if a company systematically fails to remove content.
Social media companies must offer “an easily recognizable, directly reachable, and constantly available” way for users to flag content. Users must be notified of violations and companies are forced to reveal their identities for authorities.
YouTube deleted 90 percent of reported hate speech content while Twitter only removed about one percent, according to Deutsche Well. Facebook deleted 39 percent of content flagged as hate speech.
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