$57 Million Fine Will Be Imposed On Social Media Networks If They Fail To Remove Hate Speech

The German parliament approved a plan on Friday to fine social media networks up to 50 million euros

The German parliament approved a plan on Friday to penalize social media networks around 50 million euros ($57 million) if they don't remove hateful postings immediately, despite concerns the law could limit free expression.

Germany has some of the world's toughest laws covering defamation, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with jail sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. But online cases are prosecuted.

The regulation gives social networking networks 24 hours to delete or block obviously criminal material and seven days to deal with less clear-cut instances, using an obligation to report back to the man who filed the complaint about how they handled the case.

Failure to comply could observe a business fined around 50 thousand euros, and also the company's chief representative in Germany fined around 5 million euros.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the step to "end the online regulation of the jungle" was long overdue and also dismissed suggestions that it might infringe freedom of speech.

The problem has taken on more urgency amid concerns in Germany that were proliferating fake news and racist content, especially targeting migrants, could sway public opinion from the run-up to a national election because of Sept. 24.

Concerns

But organizations representing digital businesses, consumers and journalists have accused the government of rushing a law through parliament that can damage free speech.

Facebook that has 29 million active users in Germany - over a third of the entire population has said it's working hard to get rid of illegal content, deleting 3,500 posts each week in Germany in the past two months.

"This law as it stands today won't improve attempts to undertake this significant social issue," a spokesman said, adding Facebook did not believe it was consulted enough.

Facebook noted that in May it had announced plans to add 3,000 workers around the world over the next year to track reports of inappropriate material, in addition to 4,500 people already reviewing articles.

At Berlin, Facebook's partner Arvato will apply up to 700 staff for "content moderation" by the end of the year.

However, Facebook says it has significantly improved its processes since then and is currently removing 87 percent of all articles reported by German non-governmental organizations.

Twitter has also made lots of modifications, such as adding new filtering solutions, putting limitations on accounts it had identified as participating in violent behavior and discontinuing those users from making new accounts.

In response to criticism of this draft law, the government softened the laws by excluding email and messenger providers and opening the option of producing joint tracking facilities to make decisions about what material to eliminate.

It also made clear that a fine would not necessarily be imposed after just one infraction, but only after a business systematically refused to act or doesn't set up a proper complaint management program.

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