German Prosecutors Say Won’t Investigate Facebook Over Hate Postings

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German prosecutors said on Monday they would not open a formal investigation of Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook managers in connection with a complaint alleging the company broke national laws against hate speech and sedition.

German attorney Chan-jo Jun had filed a complaint with prosecutors in Munich in 2016 and demanded Facebook executives be compelled to comply with anti-hate speech laws by deleting racist or violent postings from its site.

Jun compiled a list of about 440 postings that were flagged as inappropriate but not deleted over a period of a year. His complaint named Facebook founder and chief executive Zuckerberg and nine other managers, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment.

Germany has some of the world’s toughest laws covering defamation, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. But few online cases are prosecuted.

The Munich prosecutors’ office said in a statement that, while the posting of certain content on Facebook might breach German law, the failure to delete those posts was not a crime.

A new German law that could impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($61.5 million) on sites that failed to remove hate speech promptly did not change the situation, it said, as that law did not mean executives committed a crime when their company failed to delete posts.

“If the individual Facebook users committed crimes in these 442 cases, then the appropriate investigations will be initiated,” it said.

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(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Michelle Martin)