German Lawmakers Want to Fine Social Media Sites for Ignoring Hate Speech

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Most social media sites have clear policies prohibiting hate speech, but the sites' moderators don’t always follow through on those words. According to a study [PDF] conducted by, Facebook takes down just 39 percent of the unlawful posts that get reported to the company, while Twitter removes roughly 1 percent. In light of these numbers, the German Justice Ministry introduced legislation that would make leaving criminal content online a crime. The draft law aims to fine web companies €50 million ($53.2 million) for failing to eradicate threats, hate speech, and libelous fake news from their sites, The Associated Press reports.

Social media companies are often criticized for what they do and do not allow on their pages. In February, Twitter responded to these concerns by implementing new measures that make it easier for users to mute abusive content and make it harder for banned users to create new accounts. But as the new research out of Germany shows, such changes may not be enough.

If the law is passed by parliament, websites will be obligated to set up a way for users to report illegal material at all hours of the day. Each company must also hire a person to process the complaints; if their employer fails to uphold the new standards, they could be hit with a €5 million ($5.3 million) fine personally.

Timeliness is also part of the proposal. The report shows that a third of violations on Facebook were taken down within 24 hours, while zero percent of flagged content on Twitter was removed in that window. Under the new rules, social media posts that break the law would need to be deleted in seven days or less.

In addition to ridding the German internet of violent and hateful speech, the law could also help curb fake news. But it would only apply to content that qualifies as defamation; stories like "Britain Threatens to Invade Switzerland Over Toblerone Shape Row" would be in the clear.

[h/t ABC News]