Germany approves bill curbing online hate crime, fake news

German ministers have approved plans to fine social media firms up to 50m euros ($53.3m; £42.7m) if they fail to remove hate speech and fake news quickly.

"The providers of social networks are responsible when their platforms are misused to spread hate crime or illegal false news", German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.

Online Chat: DJ Kachman, the Veterans Affairs Department's director of mobile and security technology transformation lead, on April 10, at 1 p.m.

The list of offensive materials includes various forms of hate speech and online incitement of hatred as well as fake news, libel, and defamation, along with child pornography and terrorism-related activities.

The EU now has 28 Member States, including Germany, and in May past year its executive body, the European Commission, unveiled a code of conduct for handling hate speech on social platforms, securing agreement on this initiative from Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft.

Organisations representing digital companies, consumers and journalists, accused the government of rushing a law to parliament that could damage free speech. But it's been unhappy with their performance - calling out Facebook and Twitter for poor complaint handling earlier this month, when it also proposed the new law that's now been approved by the cabinet.

Actually, social media companies are indeed obliged to delete unlawful content.

However, some politicians believe the proposed legislation, which is expected to pass, interferes with freedom of expression.

A spokesman for Facebook, which has 29 million active users in Germany - more than a third of the total population - said the company was working hard to remove illegal content, but expressed concern at the draft law. "As experts have pointed out, this legislation would force private companies rather than the courts to become the judges of what is illegal in Germany", a Facebook spokesperson told VICE News.

Mr Maas said Twitter only took down one per cent and Facebook 39 per cent of the content reported by users deemed to flout Germany's anti-hate speech laws.

Even some NGOs, such as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which campaigns against right-wing parties, racism and anti-Semitism, said that the new bill is "in fact a limitation of the freedom of expression".

  • Patricia Jimenez