Germany Wants To Hold Facebook Criminally Liable If It Doesn't Find & Delete 'Hate' Speech

from the this-is-a-bad-idea dept

We've been pointing out that in the rush to claim that Facebook is a media company that must take responsibility for the content that is posted and shared on the site, there's really an implicit call for blocking content that is somehow deemed "bad." People keep acting like Facebook, rather than its users, has the responsibility to edit what is on the site. That's dangerous -- and for yet another example of how, we've now got a German official saying that Facebook has to be classified as a media property and be held criminally liable if it doesn't magically delete "hate speech."

This is really, really dangerous. Yes, we know that Germany has much stricter hate speech laws, but if you have to have them, at least hold the proper party responsible: those doing the speaking (and, yes, as we've pointed out repeatedly, hate speech laws are almost always abused by governments to silence and punish people they don't like). Facebook, to some extent, has brought this on itself. In the past, it's made promises, to Germany in particular about how it will help curb "hate speech" on the site. And, eventually, the government is going to get upset and say "you're not doing enough." Earlier this year, Facebook (along with Google, Microsoft, and Twitter) tried to appease European bureaucrats by signing an agreement to respond to complaints of hate speech within 24 hours. But now officials want more. Because once you give governments the power to censor speech, they're always going to want more.

None of this is to say that Facebook needs to leave any particular speech up on its site. It's a private company and gets to make those decisions. But when governments get involved, things get scary quickly -- especially as the EU does still have safe harbors in the Ecommerce Directive that are supposed to limit liability for platforms. The statement made here, by German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, is a deliberate attempt to get around that Directive by declaring Facebook no different than a newspaper, which is responsible for what it prints. That's ridiculous on any number of levels, starting with the fact that newspapers literally pick everything that they print, whereas a platform like Facebook doesn't. It's all on the users.

The really ridiculous thing here is that statements like this make things worse. It makes it clear to these platform companies that no matter how much they try to appease government officials on things like this, they're always going to push for more and more censorship power.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:07pm

    I think...

    That one Facebook, Google, or any other service should just block access to an entire country over these stupid shenanigans.

    They would only need to do it for 24 hours, if that long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 1:50pm

      Re: I think...

      You greatly underestimate how much bullshit people will put up with from their governments.

      Do you even history bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:09pm

    It's just a small step from censorship in the name of stopping hate speech, to Spain's anti-criticism laws. Or worse, Thailand-style "lèse majesté" laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      freedomfan (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 3:59pm

      Re:

      I think Germany already has laws like that. A German comedian was arrested for making fun of (notorously thin-skinned) Turkish President Erdogan.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2016 @ 7:39am

        Re: Re:

        Na, apparently that was due to an archaic loophole in the German law that enabled Erdogan to defend his reputation or somesuch, by sicking local police on the guy. Apparently there isn't a law specifically banning ridicule in Germany... Merkel was just trying to impress Erdogan.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:12pm

    Ever get the impression that governments do not like people to talk to each other, especially if its about politics and in public?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sehlat (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:18pm

    > Ever get the impression that governments do not like people to talk to each other, especially if its about politics and in public?

    Well of course! After all, people might have unapproved thoughts and it's the government's job to see that the brains run on time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:32pm

    Dear Germany, we thought you grew out of this phase in May 1945.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 1:47pm

      Re:

      This is a direct result of that to which you refer. They have had rather restrictive hate speech laws regarding some things ever since then.

      Why they choose to make FB responsible for it is another one of those stupid things that seem popular occasionally with certain people. You would think they might want to use it as a resource to find people who are actually dangerous, or even just violating their speech limitation law if they really feel like they must, i guess.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2016 @ 2:58pm

      Re:

      They did, in a way. But perhaps you're thinking of 1989, as now the country has a militant egalitarian in charge who was trained well in the art of forced social engineering by her masters in East Berlin. The "hate speech" laws are an (over)reaction to the mustache guy. They think that by punishing people for writing or saying things that ruffle the feathers of minority groups, they'll quash the next potential mustache guy before he has a chance to unleash his manifesto onto the world.

      The problem with this is that they're blocking Germans from voicing very real concerns about the #1 issue making everyone fed up in this current year's election season: immigration, especially by a (like it or not) very foreign, very incompatible, and very violent group of people, following a very primitive and barbaric ideology responsible for the Pearl Harbor 2.0 in New York that set this massive invasion of the sandbox countries in motion in the first place.

      When people get put in jail for being justifiably upset that these "oppressed minorities" went "ficki-ficki" on a number of girls and women at an outdoor New Year's party, and the political class does nothing about it in the name of apologizing for the last mustache guy and stopping the next mustache guy, guess what: people are going to throw out the current ruling class and install the next mustache guy. Especially when the group of people you're inviting in en masse are themselves the sworn enemies of the Jews.

      Merkel's atrocious decision to take the side of the "refugees" (who nobody but the most delusional kumbaya hand-holders sees as refugees anymore, but an invasion) as an "apology" for the events of 1939-1945, has already backfired tremendously. Now, AfD is not the NSDAP by any stretch of the imagination (except maybe in the same leftist press that the Americans spit in the face of when electing Trump), but if something isn't done about the migrant crisis soon that gives Germans a sense of security, AfD will look like a rambunctious group of Boy Scouts compared to what the public will want next.

      Merkel is clearly mentally ill, as she has made the decision to seek a fourth term as chancellor despite an approval rating rivaling Adolph Voldemort himself (who is actually more popular than she is, because at least he showed affinity for the native Germans instead of invading foreigners). If she wins, it will be due to fraudulent meddling by Eurocrats just like with Hofer, Le Pen, and the perpetual Brexit delay.

      Meanwhile, an increasingly restless public is angry about the neoliberal elites turning their homelands into the same third-world hellholes they've been bombing to bits, causing the mass exodus in the first place. Now that they cannot even vent their frustrations in harmless forum comments, those frustrations aren't just going to magically go away. They're going to burst open like a pressure valve, and we'll have yet another burning of the Reichstag - if not much worse.

      And all because they couldn't make jokes about guys named Ahmed due to a law about hurting their feelings. It's campus culture on the scale of an entire country -- an entire continent, in fact.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2016 @ 7:04am

        Re: Re:

        *waves hello to the alt.right poster [above]*

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2016 @ 7:11am

        Re: Re:

        "...we'll have yet another burning of the Reichstag - if not much worse."

        If you actually lived in Germany - as you seem to be pretending - then you'd know it's called the 'Bundestag'. 'Reichstag' is a name that's only used in American high school textbooks these days, because they're woefully out of date about most that don't happen on American soil.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:46pm

    Can we hold Germany criminally liable for Germany?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2016 @ 3:08pm

      Re:

      Better yet, hold Pennsylvania Avenue and Downing Street responsible instead. This being Germany, I doubt they'll place any culpability on Tel Aviv due to historical precedent. But the unholy trifecta of Bush, Blair and Netanyahu (with the Meccans acting as attack dogs), sending millions of grunts to die for the Yeretz Israel policy of decimating the ME and destroying Europe with a flood of invaders and holding them psychologically hostage with "inherited guilt" over the (arguably exaggerated) events of 1939-1945, is where the blame really LIES. These "hate speech" laws are a product of that. Now they're being used to stifle criticism of the migration crisis that is solely the fault of those three.

      I don't want to get into political diatribes, what with this being a tech blog (that has unfortunately become increasingly political in the wake of the messy US election), but suffice it to say that even though Germany keeps effing up royally, the root of the blame isn't with them. Historically, it's with the US, Britain and the UN. As for recent events, Merkel has blood on her hands and an Orwellian society of her own making, but so do the idiot cowboy and his stiff-upper-lip counterpart in London. Politically incorrect though it may be, the third culprit is the Likud war hawk sitting on his throne in the Knesset pretending to be a modern King David.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:50pm

    Turnabout is fair play

    If companies/platforms like Facebook are to be held personally responsible for what their users say and do it seems only fair that politicians be held personally responsible for what those in their area do.

    If a person posting 'hate speech' on FB means that FB is treated as the responsibility then a person committing assault should mean that the politician is treated as the responsible party.

    Just like FB 'should have (magically) known' about the speech without anyone actually pointing it out to them, the politicians 'should have (magically) known' that someone, at some point, was going to assault someone else, and and the fact that neither party did means they(FB/politician) should either both be held personally responsible for the actions of another, or neither should be held personally responsible for the actions of another.

    Fair's fair after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 12:51pm

    'hate' speech

    "I hate my senator, hes a big douche"
    "I hate the government, always trying to keep a man down"
    "I hate XYZ politician because he voted to increase my taxes!"
    "I hate these VAT taxes!"
    "I hate paying my property taxes!"
    "I hate all the flipping pot holes in the road!"
    "I hate the school board for voting to teach !"
    "I hate the local police for destroying my home trying to catch a jay walker that turned out to be a cat!"
    "I hate the state police for giving me a ticket going 55.5 in a 55 zone!"
    "I hate the prosecutor for altering evidence!"
    "I hate the government for arresting me for growing some plants!"
    "I hate the government for arresting me for burning said plants!"
    "I hate the government because they are the government!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 1:04pm

    More, more, more...

    They will always want more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NotAFan, 18 Nov 2016 @ 1:57pm

    Its tech and media

    Facebook is a tech company and media company an advertising broker and ISP and a few other things... it runs the gambit.

    They need to decide what policies their platform(s) allow, enforce those policies.

    Facebook - is - to blame as they alter the news content feeds. Simply stating that they don't write the news isn't an excuse. They specifically wrote code to alter which 'news' users view...

    If they truly supported free speech, no alterations, no programmatic news feeds would be possible, it would be a mess just like everyday life for all of us already is but that's not what they are doing... They are altering feeds. Don't blame the users, they didn't write the code...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      freedomfan (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 4:05pm

      Re: Its tech and media

      I am not sure what your point it. Regardless of the software FB uses to present content or what role you think it has among arbitrarily defined kinds of companies, FB did not write the things the German government wants censored.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2016 @ 3:11pm

        Re: Re: Its tech and media

        The German government is a bunch of dumkoffs then. I mean, really, the sole reason why Merkel wants this crackdown is to shut up sensible people who dare to point out that the horde of Muslim goat-schtuppers being imported en masse into Munich would have a field day ripping people named Zuckerberg limb from limb. The irony of a German "apologizing" for the Holocaust by threatening to imprison a Jew for his non-crimes against the government...!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2016 @ 7:34am

          Re: Re: Re: Its tech and media

          Question: if it's so painfully clear to everyone in Germany that they're getting screwed over by "Merkel's refugees", then why even bother getting all your Confederate friends to carpet bomb the internet with comments about it? Do you really think that the German people are incapable of speaking up for themselves??

          For that matter, why do you Deep South throwbacks even feel such a burning need to stick your oar into every other country's business, and tell the world what "everyone in Germany/France/England" is supposedly feeling? Do your mommies not pay enough attention to you at home? Are we the only people who you can get to listen to your obsessive fears about 'the endangered white race'?

          And, doesn't it conflict with the alt.right's "anti-globalization" stance somewhat when its members mooch around the global internet forums all day, invading and overwhelming every comment thread that so much as mentions Germany, in order to 'speak up for the German people?' I could hardly think of a more imperialistic and GLOBALIZED way to act.

          You American alt.right trolls really ought to clean up their own backyards before telling the people of Europe what to do with theirs. Maybe then you'll earn some respect... but I seriously doubt it. Germany knows better than most countries that "the only good nazi is a dead one".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 19 Nov 2016 @ 6:39am

      Re: Its tech and media

      Users didn't write the code, they wrote the content the code filters. Not blaming them for the content is idiotic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 2:02pm

    Erah, why don't we just go to the source of the problem and find and delete the speakers? Otherwise, you know, ad infinitum.

    Or we could delete Germany's listeners. That might go.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stosh, 18 Nov 2016 @ 2:39pm

    Hmmm, Holocaust deniers are allowed and encouraged by FB, yet in Germany it is a crime written into law by the victors of WWII. Pass the popcorn...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    OpenSoursedTheSolution, 18 Nov 2016 @ 3:36pm

    Solved

    http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2016/11/18/four-students-fixed-facebooks-fake-news-problem-in-36-hour s/

    Facebook can't figure out the problem... means they are bad at coding, bad at policy making or not trying to fix a problem while it makes them money...

    These kids did solve it, and provided the sourcecode - That is how you do it, open-source the solutions showing how the code works, not hiding behind bad 'coding' and claiming it's not the company's fault.

    In my opinion, Facebook has problems that stem from the very top.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 9:08pm

      Re: Solved

      According to the Washington Post. Well, it must be true then!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2016 @ 1:25am

      Re: Solved

      Have you used that code, and checked that it always gives the right answer? When someone claims to have solved a problem like this in software, they are probably lying, because if humans are bad at making such decisions, software is worse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    freedomfan (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 4:09pm

    Because once you give governments the power to censor speech, they're always going to want more.

    Just a quick note regarding the above statement: You can replace "censor speech" with nearly anything else and it will pretty much be true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ja Vol, 19 Nov 2016 @ 12:32pm

    Aw your father's mustache

    Germany should have tried this in 1932.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joval, 20 Nov 2016 @ 5:20am

    ... is anyone even aware of Germany's laws?

    Dear Mike Masnick,

    while I have nothing against your opinion, I would really appreciate it if you would please first ask a German what's really going on in Germany. The language and cultural barrier isn't something to be underestimated, especially if it comes to things like freedom of speech and hate speech.

    Germany is one of the biggest protectors of the freedom of speech worldwide, in fact it has a higher rating than the US by reporters without borders, because the media is a lot more diverse and a lot better protected.
    That comedian mentioned in the comments? Yeah, he is free again, making his TV show again and has so far won in court. And that is with Turkey throwing around its entire weight.

    Back to the topic:

    Within Germany there are two issues at play:
    First, holocaust laws make certain hate speeches criminal. Like denying the holocaust. That is historical and yes, every media concern, every forum, every person within the borders of Germany has to upheld that law. Including Facebook and including you, if you enter Germany.

    Second, the enticing and deliberate calling for criminal acts is illegal too. If I would convince someone to go to x and rape y, then I am guilty too. The same is true for all who provide a plattform for this. As a result, every plattform is responsible for NOT deliberately providing a plattform - within reason of course. And again, this is true for every website and forum.

    Why pray tell, should Facebook be different? If it comes to Germany it should apply to German law - and not expect the law to change on its behalf.

    Just for the record, all the above examples of "hate speech"? Perfectly legal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2016 @ 9:59am

      Re: ... is anyone even aware of Germany's laws?

      > As a result, every plattform is responsible for NOT deliberately providing a plattform - within reason of course.

      The point being, what Germany is asking of Facebook is *not* "within reason of course".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      NaBUru38 (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 9:42am

      Re: ... is anyone even aware of Germany's laws?

      "First, holocaust laws make certain hate speeches criminal. Yes, every media concern, every forum, every person within the borders of Germany has to upheld that law. Including Facebook and including you, if you enter Germany."

      But Facebook does not commit hate speech. Facebook users do.

      Will German authorities punish email providers, telephone companies and pubs for letting people have hateful discussions?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 2:27am

    It seems we have already forgotten history. Time to repeat it to learn the stuff again, eh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 8:20am

    So who makes the rules for the Hate Speech? If you need laws like this, you have bigger problems. The only solution is to pull out of the country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GreyAreaToBeLitigated, 21 Nov 2016 @ 11:24am

    A more neutral response

    > German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, is a deliberate attempt to get around that Directive by declaring Facebook no different than a newspaper, which is responsible for what it prints. That's ridiculous on any number of levels, starting with the fact that newspapers literally pick everything that they print, whereas a platform like Facebook doesn't. It's all on the users.

    Hoping fair use applies to the following quotes:
    http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/about/people/morgan-weiland
    > By positioning itself as part of the press, and claiming the rights that attach, the public will have an expectation that Facebook, or at least the trending newsfeed part of it, will also take up the attendant responsibilities of the press: that it adheres to certain ethical standards and can be held accountable as such. (Of course, this is an ideal to which the press strives and often fails to achieve, but strives nonetheless.) But if Facebook can in its next breath argue that it’s not a speaker or editor in the very same content for which it just claimed First Amendment protections, all bets are off: that move totally upends the public’s ability to know what role Facebook is playing and how to hold it accountable, and breaks the rights-responsibility nexus that the public expects in its Fourth Estate.
    ...
    When we evaluate the application of speech and press rights to new actors and new situations, we should not be guided merely by analogic thinking from precedent, but moreover by ethical considerations animated by the public interest. - Morgan Weiland on June 22, 2016

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DocRobot (profile), 21 Nov 2016 @ 11:43am

    Enough is enough

    When will a Big company like Google, Facebook, etc. take a stand (not against reducing hate speech) against a country that wants all the personal data, final control, data deletion, etc. and say,

    "No, that is asking too much and going too far. Stop forcing us to (for example) destroy the privacy of our users in your country by passing all their data to you, or we will shut down operations in your borders."

    And then the company has the cojones to follow through.

    Maybe China, Russia, the UK, and even the US of A will realise they cant have all that data, because they have no right to all that data...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 9:47pm

      Re: Enough is enough

      > When will a Big company like Google, Facebook, etc. take a stand (not against reducing hate speech) against a country that wants all the personal data, final control, data deletion, etc.

      You don't don't that to your partners. Big government and big business are partners.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ellen, 24 Nov 2016 @ 6:57am

    Being the spiritual homeland of bureacrats everywhere, Germany has a pronounced tendency to try and solve ALL of its problems through the behaviour of organizations, rather than that of individuals. However, I'm not sure if that attitude will ever fully translate into the English speaking world; Germany has, at present, plenty of rules and standards for its businesses bodies that AFAIK have never been applied anywhere except for in Germany because they're a bit too... and I hate to use this word... fascist for the rest of the planet.

    So the best thing for America/England/New Zealand etc. to do right now, would be to keep on advocating for the standards that they expect their governments to uphold and try not to freak out about whatever Germany's getting up to. It's a freak when it comes to its business laws... let's hope that it stays that way!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ellen, 24 Nov 2016 @ 7:01am

    ... on the other hand, I expect that the Pirate party will start picking up more votes in the next election if the government in Germany does pursue this mad, new tangent. So it's not all bad news for the tech sector!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.