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Germany threatens Facebook and Twitter with massive hate speech and fake news fines


By John Glenday, Reporter

March 20, 2017 | 2 min read

Germany has threatened to impose fines of up to €50m on social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter if they fail to get their houses in order over the spread of hate speech online.

The proposals would see firms hit in their pockets for failing to remove blatantly illegal content such as hate speech and fake news within 24 hours. For other, lesser, law breaking content a more lenient deadline of seven days has been set.

A draft law is currently wending its way through the German parliament prompted by exacerbated politicians concerned that American social media firms aren’t taking the problem seriously enough, although it is likely to be met with howls of anger from free speech activists.

Heiko Maas, federal minister for justice and consumer protection, remarked: “Facebook and Twitter missed the chance to improve their takedown practices. For companies to take on their responsibility in question of deleting criminal content, we need legal regulations.”

Internet giants have long striven to paint themselves as conduits of information rather than publishers in their own right, a semantic quirk which enables them to shed much of the responsibility shouldered by traditional publishers.

The German government's move follows concerns raised by chancellor Angela Merkel that fake news and bots could influence upcoming elections.

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