Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Will Germany's new law kill free speech online?

In October a new law comes into force in Germany that will impose huge fines on social networks if they don't delete illegal content including hate speech. It's touched off a huge debate over freedom of expression and has attracted an unusual collection of opponents.

The law is called Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz - NetzDG for short. It obliges the biggest social networks - those with more than two million German users - to take down "blatantly illegal" hate speech within 24 hours of it being reported. For material that's less obviously violating the law, networks such as Facebook and Instagram will have seven days to consider and, if appropriate, delete posts. Failure to meet these deadlines could lead to fines of up to €50m.

Critics argue the short timeframes coupled with the potentially large fines will lead social networks to be overly cautious and delete huge amounts of content - even things that are perfectly legal. But the law's supporters, and the German government, argue that it will force social media companies to proactively deal with online incitement and hate speech.

The law has also been criticised for containing no legal mechanism for people whose posts are wrongly deleted to appeal to get them reinstated.

Opposition has come from a wide range of groups and politicians on both the left and right - and Facebook has also made its disagreement with the law clear.

The United Nations has also weighed in. David Kaye, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, has written to the German government to warn about the potential consequences of the law.

A Facebook spokesperson admitted to the BBC that they can't rule out the possibility of legal content being deleted. "The law is not the right way to fight hate speech online," the spokesperson says. "It provides an incentive to delete content that is not clearly illegal and would have the effect of transferring responsibility for complex legal decisions from public authorities to private companies.

"Several legal experts have assessed the draft law as being against the German constitution and non-compliant with EU law. Facebook is committed to working in partnership with governments and civil society on solutions that would have made this law unnecessary."



Bird of Paradise said...

The Nazi/Communists are all liberals and what liberalism all about

Anonymous said...

Germans seem to be slanted toward totalitarianism.