Germany considers huge fines for hate speech

The German Justice Ministry has introduced a draft law that would impose fines of up to €50 million ($53.2 million) on social media companies that fail to quickly remove hate speech and other illegal content from their platforms. Justice Minister Heiko Maas presented the proposed law at a press conference on Tuesday.

According to the Associated Press, the fines would be imposed whenever Facebook or other web companies do not swiftly remove online threats, hate speech, or slanderous fake news. The ministry is also calling on social media companies to name one person responsible for handling complaints. In cases where companies fail to comply with the regulations, that person could face a fine of up to €5 million, according to the AP.

This is patently absurd.

Germany has long taken a tough stance on hate speech and defamation, and it has increasingly pressured US tech companies to more aggressively combat such material online. In 2015, Facebook, Google, and Twitter agreed to review and remove reported hate speech in Germany within 24 hours, and Maas has suggested that Facebook should be treated as a media company under German law. Facebook recently introduced its fake news filter in Germany, as well, amid concerns that disinformation campaigns could influence upcoming national elections.

Under the law proposed Tuesday, any obviously illegal content would have to be deleted within 24 hours; reported material that is later determined to be illegal would have to be removed within seven days.

We already remove illegal material from this blog.  Always have, always will.  Sometimes, we aren’t aware there is court ordered suppression and we need to be told.  Such is the nature of suppression orders – they don’t tell you what is suppressed.

But the problem comes when people want to define certain free speech as illegal.  In any sense.

I should be able to say that I want to see all of Israel and its people wiped off the map.  Just as I should be able to say that about Palestine.   It may not be wise, it may not be nice, it may have repercussions.   But at least I get to express what I think.

The State turning specific thoughts, when expressed, into a crime is the thin edge of a very, very dangerous wedge.

I understand why denying the Holocaust is illegal in some places.  I understand why being a neo-Nazi is illegal in some places.  I get why they got to that point.   But I consider it to be wrong and a dilution of free speech.

You may recall Helen Clark had her own go at this trying to limit the media’s ability to express themselves critically about politicians.

Hate speech as a crime should be rejected under all circumstances if we hold Freedom to be the most important thing in our society.

 

The Verge

 


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