Germany will enforce a law called “NetzDG” that demands compliance from social media platforms and media sites. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit are required to remove “hate speech,” “fake news,” and material illegal in the country within 24 hours of a public report.
The law threatens to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet, prompting criticism from Yale’s Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic to declare it a “threat to online free speech.”
Websites that fail to comply with the law could face fines of up to 50 million Euro ($60.2m) if they delay in removing the “obviously illegal” posts.
The law affects any platform with more than two million users, meaning that even websites like 4chan, which served 27.7 million monthly users in November 2017, fall under the law’s provisions. Even the Russian social network, VK, and the video game platform, Steam, are subject to compliance.
BBC reports that the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law was passed last June, and implemented in early October. Social media platforms were given until the end of 2017 to prepare themselves for enforcement.
Germany’s justice ministry is providing online forms for users to lodge complaints against hate speech they find on social media platforms, which they believe hasn’t been removed within the 24-hour period.
Beyond requiring sites like YouTube and Facebook to act quickly, the law requires these platforms to have in place a comprehensive complaint reporting system, much like the one implemented by Twitter on December 18, 2017.
According to the BBC, the creation of NetzDG stemmed from “several high-profile cases in which fake news and racist material was being spread via the German arms of prominent social media firms.”
The law states that while most material must be removed within 24 hours, networks are provided with a week to deal with “complex cases.”
As DANGEROUS previously reported, Facebook has recruited hundreds of staffers in Germany to attend reports about content that breaks the NetzDG law and monitor the network for “fake news”-related violations. A former Facebook employee revealed that the company silenced critics of the liberal German government and manipulate news coverage of the 2017 election.
In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was caught on a hot mic conversing with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over his platform’s commitment to combat “hate-posts,” following her complaints over offensive posts made on the European refugee crisis.
“Are you working on this?” Merkel asked in English, reported Bloomberg.
“Yeah,” Zuckerberg responded.
Sept. 28 — Angela Merkel has confronted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over racist content on the social media site. The two were captured in an exchange at the UN General Assembly over the weekend. Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols reports on “Countdown.”
Germany’s efforts to arbitrate free speech on the Internet echo efforts by the European Commission and the British government to censor the Internet. On Tuesday, a social media account for social democrat party of Germany (SPD) claimed: “We will delete hatespeech and insults without warning,” implying that they have administrative access to Twitter now.
Wir werden #Hassrede und #Beleidigungen ohne Vorankündigung löschen und die zugehörigen Profile sofort sperren. #ProNetzDG #NetzDG Das Internet ist kein rechtsfreier Raum.
Firms like Twitter, Google, and Facebook, as well as the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, all of which raised a ruckus over the end of Net Neutrality in the United States, have had nothing to say about the restrictive new law.
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