New German law to curb hate speech on Facebook, Twitter

London:  The German Justice ministry is planning to frame a new law that will force social networking sites to curb fake news and hate speech.

According to a report in DW on Tuesday, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas revealed details of a new law that will force social networks to publish a quarterly accountability report.

The report will include information on the number and qualifications of employees responsible for deleting and blocking content that breaches Germany’s hate speech and slander laws.

Under the new law, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks will be required to offer users “an easily recognisable, directly reachable, and constantly available” complaint process for “prosecutable content”.

According to the new law, prosecutable content includes libel, slander, defamation, incitement to commit a crime, hate speech against a particular social group, and threats.

That will trigger social networking sites to take a prompt action by immediately checking the complaints and delete all illegal content within seven days.

“Violating these regulations could lead to a fine of up to $5.3 million for the individual employee responsible for the complaint procedure, and up to the same amount for the company itself,” the report quoted the bill drafted by the Justice Ministry.

“The self-commitments of the companies led to initial improvements. But these are not sufficient. Too few comments are deleted. And they’re not being deleted quickly enough,” Maas was quoted as saying.

During a test conducted in January-February this year, the Justice ministry found that that Facebook only deleted 39 per cent of offensive content reported by users, while Twitter fared even worse, with only 1 per cent of content reported by users deleted.

The test was conducted by the child protection organisation

“Hate and incitement endanger cohesion in our country and are poison for society. It’s unacceptable that companies make huge profits from social networks and at the same time slink away from their responsibility in fighting messages of hate.” Manuela Schwesig, Family Minister, was quoted as saying.