Ger­many threat­ens to fine Face­book over hate speech

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

BER­LIN: Ger­man of­fi­cials are step­ping up their crit­i­cism of Face­book, say­ing the so­cial net­work is do­ing too lit­tle to stop hate speech and could face stiff fines un­less it deletes il­le­gal con­tent faster. In an in­ter­view pub­lished Fri­day, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Heiko Maas said his min­istry was check­ing whether it would be pos­si­ble to make so­cial net­work­ing sites legally li­able for il­le­gal posts. “Of course in the end, we also have to think about fines, if other mea­sures fail to work,” Maas told the Sued­deutsche Zeitung news­pa­per. “That would be a strong in­cen­tive to act quickly.” Ger­many has seen a sharp in­crease in vit­ri­olic posts on so­cial me­dia in re­cent years amid a heated pub­lic de­bate over the in­flux of more than a mil­lion mi­grants since the start of 2015.

The coun­try has laws against speech deemed to be racist, defam­a­tory or in­cit­ing vi­o­lence - a re­sponse to Ger­many’s Nazi legacy. But au­thor­i­ties have strug­gled with the del­uge of of­ten anony­mous post­ings on for­eign-owned web­sites. Face­book, based in Cal­i­for­nia, says it takes the is­sue se­ri­ously and has hun­dreds of con­trac­tors re­view­ing posts at a Ber­lin of­fice. But Sued­deutsche Zeitung re­ported Fri­day that staff mem­bers there com­plain of in­con­sis­tent rules and over­work. Thomas Op­per­mann, a se­nior law­maker in Maas’ So­cial Demo­cratic Party, told Ger­man weekly Der Spiegel that dom­i­nant so­cial me­dia sites like Face­book could be re­quired to delete il­le­gal posts within 24 hours or face fines up to 500,000 euros ($522,000).

Face­book also could be com­pelled to dis­trib­ute corrections that reach the same num­ber of peo­ple as the orig­i­nal post, Op­per­mann sug­gested, some­thing tra­di­tional me­dia com­pa­nies in Ger­many are al­ready re­quired to do. The pro­pos­als come as Ger­man of­fi­cials warn that the coun­try’s up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion is likely to be heav­ily af­fected by hate speech and fake news spread on so­cial me­dia. The na­tion­al­ist Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party, which has a strong pres­ence on Face­book, crit­i­cized the govern­ment’s pro­pos­als as an at­tempt to limit free speech. — AP

LON­DON: Photo shows Face­book lo­gos pic­tured on the screens of a smart­phone and a lap­top com­puter, in cen­tral Lon­don. Face­book said it was of­fer­ing a tool al­low­ing users to re­port fake news, a move aimed at stem­ming a wave of mis­in­for­ma­tion which some claim in­flu­enced the 2016 US elec­tion. — AFP

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