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Internet Users in Germany Approve of Proposal to Police Hate Speech Online

Social sites could be fined up to €50 million ($55.3 million) for failure to remove content

April 20, 2017 | Social Media

Continuing to display a great sensitivity toward fake news and online hate speech and comments, the government in Germany proposed a law that aims to fine social media sites up to €50 million ($55.3 million) for failure to remove hate speech and fake news reported by users within a week.

While the bill still requires approval from parliament, it certainly enjoys wide support: According to an April 2017 survey by YouGov, seven in 10 internet users in Germany ages 18 and older at least somewhat agree with the proposal.

Internet Users in Germany Who Agree with Social Media Fake News/Hate Comments Law, April 2017 (% of respondents)

Germany, of course, has taken hate speech very seriously since World War II and Volksverhetzung, a legal concept that roughly translates to inciting the masses, can lead to jail time.

But lawmakers in Germany aren’t looking for jail time. Instead, they are trying to hit social media giants—and their executives—in the wallet.

Along with company fines, executives can be fined up to €5 million ($5.5 million) for failure to remove hate speech and fake news.

Many social media companies are, not surprisingly, protesting the proposed law, arguing removing such content is not their responsibility.

How the courts receive the law, should it pass, is unclear. Last month, a court in Germany refused a request to force Facebook to stop people from making false claims about a photo of a refugee from Syria with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ben Clague

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