Monday, 20 November, 2017

Germany approves bill curbing online hate crime, fake news

"Children do not belong in the marriage registry office or the wedding hall" said Justice Minister Heiko Maas in a statement sent to AFPMore
Cecilia Poole | 06 April, 2017, 01:57

The German Parliament approved a plan Wednesday that will force social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove hate speech within 24 hours or face a fine of up to $53 million.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved the draft of the bill proposed by Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Germany, which has some of the strongest hate speech laws in the world, is particularly sensitive to this uptick because crucial elections are to be held there in September.

Beyond hate speech and fake news, the draft legislation also covers other illegal content, including child pornography and terror-related activity. But Maas said Wednesday that he would press for similar measures to be adopted across the 28-member European Union.

The reports, which should be provided every three months, must also include data on how many employees are tasked with dealing with offensive content in each social network company.

"Germany considers itself a pioneer", said Markus Beckedahl, a prominent German Internet activist and Berlin-based blogger.

However, German officials said the companies are failing to meet the target.

The new legislation encountered criticism from Green Party politician Renate Kuenast, who told ARD "My fear, and that of many, is that the version [of the law] he is proposing, in the end, will lead to a severe limitation of freedom of speech since all that will be done is deleting, deleting, deleting". The company echoed concerns that the bill would wrongly foist upon corporations a level of decision-making on the legality of content that should instead reside with German courts.

Facebook issued a statement regarding the latest development, claiming it is determined to work with others to solve the problem.

Bitkom, an association that represents digital companies, said the government should build up specialist teams to monitor online content for potential infringements, rather than expect social networks to do it themselves.

"This will set binding standards for how companies running social networks must handle complaints and require them to delete criminal content", Maas said.

Germany's justice minister said hate speech posed a grave danger to harmonious living in a free, open and democratic society. "We owe it to the victims of hate crimes to enforce this better".

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