Germany Fine Facebook $56M For Refusing To Block ‘Conspiracy Theories’

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Germany has voted to fine social media networks such as Facebook up to $56 million each time they continue allowing ‘conspiracy theories’ to be spread online. 

Facebook, Twitter, and other large social media sites will be given just 24 hours to remove content deemed offensive or ‘hateful’ – otherwise face huge fines as a consequence.

The bill was rushed through German parliament, just 2 months ahead of the German elections in which Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel is predicted to face an embarrassing defeat over to her failed immigration policies.

Freedom of speech ends where criminal law begins,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in response to criticism of the new Orwellian law.

Rt.com reports: The companies will have to publish a report every six months, describing in detail how they have dealt with complaints of hate speech on their platforms, the bill suggests.

According to Maas, who proposed the bill back in March, the number of hate crimes in Germany jumped by over 300 percent in the last two years.

“This law is the logical next step for effectively tackling hate speech since all voluntary agreements with the platform providers have been virtually unsuccessful,” the Central Council of Jews in Germany said, praising the measure, as cited by Reuters.

However, the companies affected, including Facebook, did not welcome the bill, saying it could crack down on free speech.

“This law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important social problem,” a Facebook statement said.

“We feel that the lack of scrutiny and consultation do not do justice to the importance of the subject. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure safety for the people on our platform.”

A Facebook spokesperson told RT in an emailed statement that the company has always viewed hate speech as a serious issue, but does not believe that the German law can “improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem.”

“We share the goal of the German government to fight hate speech. We have been working hard on this problem and have made substantial progress in removing illegal content,” the statement read.

Facebook said it was adding 3,000 people to its community operations team, on top of the 4,500 it already has, and was “building better tools to keep our community safe.”

“We believe the best solutions will be found when government, civil society and industry work together and that this law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem. We feel that the lack of scrutiny and consultation do not do justice to the importance of the subject,” it added.

In the “background points” provided with the statement, Facebook said that the law was criticized by legal experts for being rushed through parliament despite contradicting the German constitution and EU laws.

According to the company, the legislation would allow deleting “content that is not clearly illegal” and shift complex legal decision-making from the government to tech firms.

In May Reporters Without Borders said the group “fears censorship resulting from German law on online hate content.”

“RSF opposes this bill, which would just contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms and making them decide where or not content should be deleted, as if the Internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts,” said Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF’s Journalism and Technology desk.

Sean Adl-Tabatabai
Sean Adl-Tabatabai

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