Digital Transformation Germany Social Media

German government threatens Facebook, Twitter & Google with punitive £42.7m hate speech fines

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By John Glenday | Reporter

April 6, 2017 | 2 min read

The German government has stepped up a war of words with social media giants over their perceived inaction in dealing with hate speech and fake news, by threatening to impose fines of up to £42.7m if they fail to block or remove such content within 24 hours.

The switch from rhetoric to action came after ministers approved plans for the explicit use of financial penalties, although a tougher measure to punish Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Google over a solitary infraction failed to pass.

"As experts have pointed out, this legislation would force private companies rather than the courts to become the judges of what is illegal in Germany."

German justice minister Heiko Mass defended the measure however, stating: “Twitter only removes 1% of these hate speeches, Facebook removes less than 50%, But we know this is possible, because YouTube manages to remove 99% of them. The freedom of speech is only limited by the law.”

Naturally the social media firms concerned were not best pleased at this turn of events, a view shared by free speech advocates who fear that the stringent rules will force firms to err on the side of caution when dealing with dubious content to dodge large fines.

Facebook has begun rolling out a new fact checking tool which aims to debunk reality challenged articles which appear on the service, including claims that thousands of Irish people were transported to the US as slaves.

Digital Transformation Germany Social Media

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