Face­book ac­cused of con­don­ing hate

Face­book ac­cused of con­don­ing hate speech

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors said yes­ter­day they have launched a probe af­ter re­ceiv­ing a com­plaint al­leg­ing that top Face­book bosses in­clud­ing founder Mark Zucker­berg are con­don­ing hate speech, as pres­sure grows on the so­cial net­work to clamp down on racist con­tent. The probe comes as top politi­cians are ratch­et­ing up warn­ings against the US group, with the Ger­man jus­tice min­istry mulling pos­si­ble penal­ties if Face­book failed to re­move of­fen­sive user com­men­taries promptly af­ter they have been flagged.

Con­cern has been ris­ing over the vit­ri­olic com­ments made by some Face­book and Twit­ter users in Ger­many, which have gained in­ten­sity as pub­lic mis­giv­ings grow in some quar­ters over the al­most 900,000 asy­lum seek­ers who ar­rived last year. Con­firm­ing a chal­lenge against Face­book, the spokesman of the Mu­nich pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice, Flo­rian Weinzierl said that “a com­plaint has been filed by a lawyer that ac­cuses, among oth­ers, Mr Zucker­berg” of “the of­fence of in­cite­ment”.

His ser­vice is ex­am­in­ing if it is the “com­pe­tent of­fice for such claims and whether there has been crim­i­nal con­duct”, he said, adding that in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into whether Ger­man pe­nal law ap­plies in this case. Lawyer Chan-jo Jun, who ini­ti­ated the claim, said he had com­piled a list of 438 cases in­clud­ing in­cite­ment of hate and vi­o­lence as well as sup­port for ter­ror­ist groups made on Face­book, but which he said the so­cial net­work has failed to delete even though they have been re­peat­edly flagged up as of­fen­sive speech.

“The man­age­ment vi­o­lated Ger­man law, by not re­mov­ing il­le­gal con­tent from Face­book de­spite be­ing no­ti­fied, and al­low­ing the con­tent to be pub­licly avail­able,” Jun said of his com­plaint, which he said also tar­gets Face­book chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Sh­eryl Sand­berg and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the north­ern Europe re­gion Martin Ott. Jun last year filed a sim­i­lar chal­lenge in the north­ern city of Ham­burg but pros­e­cu­tors there re­jected the claim, say­ing that Face­book man­agers did not fall un­der Ger­man ju­ris­dic­tion. Face­book de­clined com­ment on the probe but said “the al­le­ga­tions lack merit and there has been no vi­o­la­tion of Ger­man law by Face­book or its em­ploy­ees.” “There is no place for hate on Face­book. We work closely with part­ners to fight hate speech and foster counter speech,” it added.

50,000 euro fine per post?

The lat­est chal­lenge against Face­book comes amid re­peated calls from the gov­ern­ment to get US on­line net­works to take swift ac­tion to com­bat hate speech. De­spite a pledge in De­cem­ber last year by Face­book, Twit­ter and Google to ex­am­ine and re­move of­fen­sive posts in Ger­many within 24 hours, users have re­ported that their requests to take down hate speech have of­ten hit a wall. Se­nior politi­cians in Ger­many have in re­cent weeks voiced ex­as­per­a­tion over the is­sue. In an in­ter­view last month, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Heiko Maas said the on­line gi­ants had taken ac­tion only in a mi­nor­ity of cases, and warned of “con­se­quences” if they failed to meet their obli­ga­tions.

Out of the cases re­ported to Twit­ter in Ger­many, only one per­cent was erased, he said, while for Face­book, the pro­por­tion was 46 per­cent. The so­cial net­works have “up to March next year” to deal with the prob­lem, he said, “if noth­ing changes, then we will have to oblige them to take their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties more se­ri­ously.” Volker Kauder, a key mem­ber of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s party, said the so­cial me­dia groups should face penal­ties in case of re­cal­ci­trance on the is­sue. If the com­pa­nies fail to re­move of­fen­sive posts within a week af­ter they have been re­ported, then they should be pe­nal­ized, with a sug­gested fine of 50,000 eu­ros ($55,000) per post, he said.

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