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.

Filed Under: criminal liability, ecommerce directive, free speech, germany, hate speech, heiko maas, intermediary liability, media, platforms
Companies: facebook


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. 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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set 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.