WJC welcomes draft legislation in Germany to combat online hate speech

GERMANY-FACEBOOK

"This (draft law) sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content", Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation on Tuesday.

Maas and other members of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition have called for social networks to be held to higher content standards demanded of media broadcasters instead of hands-off rules applied to telecom operators.

The tests show that just one in 100 tweets containing illegal content was deleted and that did not happen within 24 hours, while Facebook removed 33 per cent of offensive content, seven per cent less than previous tests showed.

"In a lively democracy, freedom of expression also protects repulsive and ugly comments", Maas said.

Draft laws proposed in Germany on Tuesday will see online companies hit with fines up to €50m (£44m) for the failure to remove such posts.

According to the study, which was conducted by the German government, Facebook is deleting 39 percent of the flagged content, while Twitter managed just 1 percent.

While "fake news" in itself is not illegal, supporters of restrictions say it often incorporates defamation and incitement that would be punished if carried by traditional media.

As part of the measures, sites will have to delete offending material within a week and run 24-hour helplines for concerned users.




Back in December, Maas proposed a fine of €500,000 euros, or $530,000, for any item of fake news and hate speech, including racism or statements inciting violence, that isn't removed within 24 hours of being flagged.

Facebook said it would examine the proposal.

Mr Maas said the law could apply to fake news articles if they proved to be slanderous, defamatory or libellous.

Twitter said it had recently taken steps to prevent abuse and help users filter unwanted content, while Facebook said it would have 700 staff reviewing flagged content in Berlin by the end of the year, the news wire reported.

Online debate around a series of Isis-inspired terror attacks in Europe and mass sex attacks in Cologne on New Year's Eve 2016 has drawn national attention to the issue, as Germany approaches its elections in September.

Twitter declined to comment on the proposal but noted a number of measures taken in recent months that it said are created to prevent abuse and allow users to filter unwanted content.

He added that while the commitments so far undertaken by companies have led to initial improvements, they remain insufficient.

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