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Facebook has come under tremendous pressure in Germany to remove hate speech from its platform. In September, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas stated the German government is conducting a study to determine how best to deal with online hate speech, and that the government will decide in March whether legal action should be taken against Facebook and other social media platforms. The German state of Bavaria has no interest in waiting around for the federal government to take action and has launched its own investigation into Facebook.

The investigation began when a Bavarian lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, reported the social media platform to police. The complaint accused the company of allowing racism, Holocaust denial, and violent threats to remain on the site even after they were reported. Jun has compiled a list of 438 posts that were flagged by users but were not removed. Reuters describes the posts by stating, “They include what some might consider merely angry political rants but also clear examples of racist hate speech and calls to violence laced with references to Nazi-era genocide.

The investigation targets Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, European Policy Director Richard Allen, the head of the Berlin office Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, and several other managers. The Bavarian prosecutors must not only find evidence proving Facebook executives have broken German law, but also determine if the offense falls under their jurisdiction. Prosecutors in Hamburg dismissed a similar complaint by Jun earlier in the year on jurisdictional grounds, because Facebook’s European operations were based in Ireland.

A statement from Jun’s law firm suggests that this complaint may have more luck than the one in Hamburg because “There is a different view in Bavaria.” The Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback responded to Jun’s request for comment and said that German law would apply to some of the offenses. However, Facebook insisted that it has not broken German law. The company issued a statement saying, “We are not commenting on the status of a possible investigation but we can say that the allegations lack merit and there has been no violation of German law by Facebook or its employees.”

Should Facebook be punished for failing to remove hate speech? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Facebook shouldn’t be punished for failing to remove hate speech because the very concept of hate speech shouldn’t be enshrined in law in the first place. The issue is that the government decides what “hate speech” is and that makes it comically easy to silence dissenting or unpopular opinions. You don’t want the government to have that kind of power ever.

    I’ll take the option of allowing bigots to talk freely over the risks to society and free thought that come along with the concept of hate speech any day of the week.

  • Jomoko

    how about we just ban germans from using facebook and let them have a go at their own social network.

  • JosephCain

    That’s adorable. Germany’s trying to force global companies to abide by their absolute law and doctrine. We already saw what Germany thinks of “justice” Google Cologne Germany if you don’t believe me. No, we have to fight hate speech (without clearly defining what it is) because someone’s fee fees got hurt. Pfft. They went from Nazis locking you up for having the wrong religion to PC Police locking you up for the wrong opinion. Maybe Germans are just power mad dictators by design…

  • John Smith.

    Wait what?
    When did Germany convert itself into the Peoples democratic republic of Germany?

  • You would think Germany of all places would grasp the danger of shutting down expression because it is politically unpalatable, but it seems they learned nothing from the unfortunate events of 1933 to 1945