Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media companies could be fined up to nearly 5 million euros by Germany for hateful messages posted on their site not deleted within 24 hours. The new law is set to commence in October. It was passed by Germany’s parliament last Friday and is set to tackle comments that are racist, defamatory, or hateful.
The new law stipulates that companies have 24 hours to erase illegal content after it is flagged. They have another seven days to sift through messages marked as offensive but not necessarily criminal under German statute. The Fines for consistently failing to comply is 5 million euros. Other infractions may make it as high as 50 million Euros.
Digital rights activists are concerned that this may stifle freedom of expression and speech. They are also concerned that the measure is disproportionate especially in the face of principles of intermediary liability. Facebook, says it “will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem.”
According to Germany’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, hate crimes have increased by 300 percent in the past two years.
Twitter, and Google agreed to remove such content from their platforms within 24 hours, under a 2015 deal with the German government,. However according to a report commissioned by the Justice Ministry in 2017, it found that the companies were still failing to meet their commitments.