Published: Thu, April 06, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

Germany Gets Really Serious About Fake News on Facebook

Germany Gets Really Serious About Fake News on Facebook

With an influx of immigration and an election coming up, the German government recently proposed strict new standards that would force social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to regulate fake news and hate speech.

The legislation was proposed by Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas to "substantiate the existing obligation to remove hate crime and malicious fake news" by the operators of social media services.

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In addition to fake news and hate speech, the draft bill would also target posts seen as inciting terrorism or spreading child pornography.

The draft law was unveiled last month.

The companies will now have only 24 hours to remove any content which violates German law once they are reported by users.

"We work very hard to remove illegal content from our platform and are determined to work with others to solve this problem", a spokeswoman told the BBC. "That would have a serious impact on free speech on the internet", said Bitkom manager Bernhard Rohleder.

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A recent analysis of the performance of the three firms at handling hate speech complaints in Germany, conducted by local youth protection organization jugendschutz.net, found that Facebook only deleted 39 per cent of reported criminal content, while Twitter only removed one in a hundred reported messages.

"My belief is we should rely on critical thinking to deal with things like hate speech and fake news because you [can] use your ability to reject things if the origins are suspect", said Cerf. Other illegal content needs to be deleted within 7 days of reporting. Merkel's coalition wants to adopt the law before the election, Maas said.

Organisations representing digital companies, consumers and journalists, accused the government of rushing a law to parliament that could damage free speech.

A Facebook representative in Germany declined to immediately comment.

"It is clear that freedom of expression is of huge importance in our vibrant democracy".

Even some NGOs, such as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which campaigns against right-wing parties, racism and anti-Semitism, said that the new bill is "in fact a limitation of the freedom of expression".

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