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


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  1. 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".

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