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article imageGermany having a tough time enforcing online hate speech law

By Lisa Cumming     May 20, 2018 in Technology
On January 1 of this year, Germany's new Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) went into full effect. This act states that any company that fails to remove illegal content within 24 hours faces a fine of up to 50 million Euros.
Within a day there was already controversy over how the law was being enforced. A series of tweets and satirical tweets about those tweets were deleted based on Germany's NetzDG in the early days of January. The subject matter in question was a reaction to the police in Cologne tweeting a New Year’s greeting in Arabic, and a reaction to that reaction.
That was just the start of what continues to be a difficult road that Germany is travelling on to curb hate speech online. The alt-right has pounced on this new law; saying that their views and sense of humour is under attack because of a “delete in doubt” strategy where social media platforms, if they're uncertain if the content runs afoul of the law, will just delete it.
“I’m far from being a fan of the far right, but a lot of them are afraid that their postings are deleted because of their beliefs, not because of what they say. The NetzDG is on people’s minds. Generally, people are more careful what to think, what to write. Lots of people are afraid of losing their accounts.” — said Jeorg Heidrich, a German internet lawyer to The Atlantic.
Inside a "deletion center" in Berlin content moderators working for Facebook work to clean up the social media platform — "from terrorist propaganda to Nazi symbols to child abuse" — any content that violates the German law or Facebook's community standards.
Harmful content spreads like wildfire all over the world and at this centre in Germany, officers work tirelessly to figure out where it is and how they can get rid of it.
"In India, seven people were beaten to death after a false viral message on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp. In Myanmar, violence against the Rohingya minority was fueled, in part, by misinformation spread on Facebook. In the United States, Congress called Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to testify about the company’s inability to protect its users’ privacy." — from the New York Times report.
Currently, there's a debate waging over how far the reach of the NetzDG is: should content just be blocked from those with German IP? Are these centres in violation of free speech? Should it be deleted? Or would that constitute the application of NetzDG worldwide?
While others believe these centres should exist outside of Germany as well.
Alongside Germany's NetzDG, the EU is also enacting strict data privacy rules on May 25.
More about Germany, Hate, Speech, Online, Facebook