German ‘fake news’ bill under fire
EU digital commissioner Andrus Ansip has hit out at Germany’s tough new bill on internet hate speech and misinformation, saying banning so-called fake news was not a priority.—
The EU digital commissioner has criticised Germany’s tough new bill on hate speech and misinformation on the internet, saying self-regulation and enforcing existing EU laws are more important than trying to ban fake news.
“We shouldn’t kill innovation in Europe by over-regulating platforms,” Andrus Ansip said. Google and Facebook had taken important steps to curb excesses on their platforms in recent months and these should be encouraged. “I believe in self-regulation,” he added.
He was speaking less than a week after the German government presented a draft law that would impose fines of up to €50 mon social networks that fail to delete hate speech or fake news.
The bill reflects deepening concern in Germany’s political establishment about the role that internet misinformation and hoaxes could play in this year’s general election campaign, where the populist, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) is expected to win seats for the first time.
Berlin has been concerned at the prevalence of fake stories that may have influenced voter behaviour during the US election campaign.
The German justice ministry’s proposed law would create a legal requirement for social networks to offer users “an easily recognisable, immediately accessible and always available process for registering complaints about illegal content”. They would also be obliged to delete or block clearly illegal content within 24 hours, rising to seven days for less clear-cut cases.
The legislation is primarily aimed at hate speech, which has proliferated in Germany in the wake of the refugee crisis, but would also cover potential slanderous or defamatory fake news. Germany has strict rules limiting free speech, with bans on incitement to racial hatred and Holocaust denial.
Facebook said it was trying to deal with the issue and that by the end of the year it would have more than 700 content reviewers in Berlin. It is also testing fake news filtering tools in Germany.
Speaking at the CeBIT technology trade fair in Hanover, Mr Ansip said it was “pretty dangerous” to prohibit internet hoaxes and said governments should instead “trust to people’s common sense”. “Fake news is bad, but a ministry of truth is even worse ,” he said.
He noted the result of this month’s Dutch election, where centre-right prime minister Mark Rutte beat farright populist Geert Wilders, showed that“people are quite capable of distinguishingbetween fake and real news ”.
He also suggested that the EU already had adequate tools for dealing with online hate speech and misinformation, referring to a voluntary code of conduct with the internet platforms, and “notice and take down” procedures set out in the EU’s own ecommerce regulations.
These require hosting service providers such as social networks or online retailers to remove illegal content when alerted to it by users.
‘Fake news is bad, but a ministry of truth is even worse’ Andrus Ansip, EU digital head