Germany has announced that social media websites that don’t remove “obviously illegal” posts could now face up to €50 million in fines.
BBC News reports that Germany plans to begin enforcing a law that could see social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter fined up to €50 million for hate speech on their platforms. The law gives the companies 24 hours to remove offending content from their platform once they have been notified of its existence. The law applies to any social media sites with more than 2 million members, this means that not only Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will be at risk of fines, but also sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social media website VK.
The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law was passed into law at the end of June 2017 and enforcement began at the start of October. Social media networks were informed of the law and told they had until the end of 2017 to prepare for the law’s implementation. Germany’s justice ministry announced plans to make forms available on their website that could be used by citizens to report content that violates the NetzDG. One of the requirements that NetzDG places on social media firms is not just that they remove content, but that they must have a fully working and detailed complaints system so that users can report offensive content.
Some leniency in the 24 hour content removal time frame will be given in “complex cases,” which will be given a full week for review and action. Many have criticised the law stating that it verges on restricting free speech within the country — the NetzDG is by far the strictest measure enacted by a government on social media websites in recent times. Due to fears of the spread of “fake news” during the 2016 elections, calls for social media regulation became prevalent across Europe. The European Commission also published guidelines for social media websites which encouraged them to act faster on extremist content on their platforms.
Facebook has reportedly already begun recruiting hundreds of content moderators in Germany to watch out for extremist content on their platform and deal with reports of content that violate the NetzDG.