German Hate Speech Law Goes Into Effect, Turning Social Media Platforms Into Gov't Revenue Generators

from the gentlemen:-start-your-paperwork dept

Social media platforms doing business in Germany can look forward to a year filled with fines of up to €50m. Germany's hate speech law went into effect on January 1st, providing the country with a new revenue stream it can tap into for the rest of whatever.

The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law was passed at the end of June 2017 and came into force in early October.

The social networks were given until the end of 2017 to prepare themselves for the arrival of NetzDG.

The law gives social media platforms 24 hours to remove "obviously illegal" content. This, of course, raises the question about how obvious "obviously illegal" content needs to be to trigger the 24-hour deletion requirement. Presumably, the government gets to decide how "obvious" the illegality is and how often it gets to collect millions of euros.

In what must be considered a show of government largesse, one week will be allowed to handle "complex" removal orders -- again, something likely determined solely by the German government. Given Germany's ultra-weird relationship with its Nazi past, the difference between complex and simple takedown demands isn't likely to be clear cut, putting companies in the path of fines and further German government grousing.

I understand that American companies are somewhat obliged to follow local laws when providing services overseas, but they should not be put in the position of being held criminally and civilly liable for the posts of their users. They can attempt to moderate content with an eye on local statutes, but the fines for posting "obviously illegal" content should be levied on the person posting it, rather than the service provider.

This ridiculous shifting of liability is even more egregious in Germany. Not only are service providers fined for not removing illegal content, EMPLOYEES of these companies can be directly fined as well.

[T]he law also provides for fines of up to €5m for the person each company designates to deal with the complaints procedure if it doesn’t meet requirements.

We often see government officials claiming the billions of dollars in profits Google, Facebook, et al rack up somehow should result in perfect compliance with every esoteric, content-related complaint worldwide. But no one's claimed individual employees tasked with government compliance are callous billionaires, and yet the German hate speech law makes that equation with its willingness to bankrupt individuals for not responding to government removal demands fast enough.

There are concerns in Germany this law could lead to government censorship and a restriction of free speech. These concerns have already materialized somewhat indirectly. A regime with an interest in censorship and curtailing criticism has already pushed out a carbon-copy of Germany's law. This gives Russia the opportunity to push companies into performing censorship on its behalf, with Germany to point at when critics start questioning Russia's actions.

Filed Under: germany, hate speech, intermediary liability, social media
Companies: facebook, google


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2018 @ 12:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "So why should you be able to post one on facebook?"

    Nobody's saying you should be able to, only that it should be the person posting the swastika held responsible rather than Facebook themselves.

    "I don't seem to recall that as policy those platforms held people responsible for what they say"

    Luckily, reality is not dependent on whether or not one random person recalls it or not. It exists even if you pretend it is not as it is.

    "It's extremely obvious that all social platforms don't care about speech of any kind but only about monetizing everything"

    For profit businesses do tend to be like that, yes. So?

    "But if you believe that speech must be allowed no matter what, then I don't think we have a basis for a discussion, and we will just shout at each others face."

    No, the problem is that you've spent paragraphs lecturing me about things that are not my opinion while not taking a moment to understand my actual opinion. YOU are the problem, sir.

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