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German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has once again called for social media platforms to take a stronger stance against hate speech and terrorist propaganda. While he admitted that companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google have been removing more illegal speech recently, their efforts are still not good enough. He says the companies respond to most requests by government-funded groups, but rarely act on complaints by ordinary users. “Of the illegal content reported by users,” he stated,  “Twitter deletes about 1 percent, YouTube just 10 percent, and Facebook about 46 percent.”

The German government is currently conducting a study to determine how best to deal with online hate speech. Maas states that the government will take further action in March, when the study is completed. Maas did not provide specific details on what sort of action might be taken be he stated that he could not rule out taking legal action against the social media platforms.

This statement has drawn criticism from Konstantin von Notz, a member of the Green party. Notz argues that the government has already put off this issue too long and the March deadline is just an excuse to delay action further. “This problem is too important for our society,” Notz stated, “The chancellor should take the issue in hand herself. Her justice minister is clearly in over his head.”

On the other hand, Mathias Doepfner, who heads Germany’s Axel Springer media group, has concerns about forcing social media platforms to censor speech. He argues that social media companies should be treated like telecommunications companies which are “not held responsible if people use their phone to talk about stupid or dangerous stuff.” He goes on to state that, “If these quasi-monopolistic technology platforms are also responsible for content, the consequences will be grave – for business and society.”

Should social media companies do a better job at removing speech considered illegal in European countries? Should they be held legally responsible for speech that appears on their platforms? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

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

  • JuicyHopFrog

    Who defines what hate speech is? I think we’ve seen how loose these definitions can be. Tell someone they suck… HATE SPEECH!

  • Garbagio Dumpsterino

    Why not just become China and block “hate speech” yourself? Fuck free access to information, right?

  • In the UK, “Hate speech is what the government of the day says it is.”

    Note: “Hate speech” in this paraphrased quote can be subsituted with damn near anything.

  • A Hyena

    “He says the companies respond to most requests by government-funded groups, but rarely act on complaints by ordinary users”
    while I’m sure their idea of what is and isn’t hate speech is questionable, at least there’s somebody high up calling them out for that kind of selective bullshit when responding to reports

  • Ammit-Chan

    Maas der Hurensohn…
    I really would wish that his shittiness would get more well-known, but thanks to our shit government(Still less shit than the USA-Government), a lot of people have no interest in politics anymore.

  • Iconoclast

    The man is becoming unbearable. Now that the next elections draw near he apprently thinks that quantity will make up for the lack of quality during his tenure as Minister of Justice.

    Really the man has become quite active, to the point where a senior member of the Merkel’s cabinet, Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble told him publicly to step down from his office over allegations of unconstitutionally infringing on ongoing court cases the “Gina-Lisa” court case (also an example of “listen and believe” back-firing hard) just to get an ideological favourable outcome. Schäuble himself is a hard-ass neo-con who would have enacted his own Patriot Act during his time as Minister of Interior Affairs if it weren’t for public backlash (see “StaSi 2.0”). So if he says “back off” you have clearly crossed a line to many.

    Worse, I bet he is working with the Minister for Family and social issues Ms Schwesig who has a history of using govt. funds to prop up “private” initiatives like the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung (i.e. a private foundation) who is acting as the inofficial censorship board (also run by an ex-StaSi mole). The money sinks into gender “research”, stupid internet campaings and in general serves to provide SPD party members with a non-job.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    “If these quasi-monopolistic technology platforms are also responsible for content, the consequences will be grave – for business and society.”

    Edit: Good to know that there’s a politician someone in that room that gets it.

  • Iconoclast

    Lobbyist he is and the Axel-Springer-group has sucessfully pushed for stuff like Ancillary copyright legislation in the past, so take his complaints with a bucket of salt. He might have a point there, but they are no friends of a free and open internet.

    Ironicly once said legislation was in place, most media outlets (including Springer) just gave google a blanket permission of blurbs and links because of how dependent they are on the traffic they get through google news. Quite the pyrrhic victory and waste of tax money that was.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    I’d say he definitely has a point with that quote. Funny thing is that even those with selfish intentions can still be right.

  • Zatara

    On the other hand, what happens when you “insult” (ergo: offend) some SJW & they decide to press charges because you don’t respect their right to [something something something], or whatever?

    Don’t we have enough of that bullshit going on already, without giving overly-sensitive people legal avenues with which to actively complain about other people? >.>

    I agree on the Facebook thing (there are some things that should be R-Rated), but Free Speech is Free Speech. The Anti-Nazi Laws should be the only exception, & that’s only in Germany, & only because of the ongoing Neo-Nazi issues Germany faces. Arresting &/or sending police to people’s homes to tell them to “back their shit down” because they’re Anti-Immigrant on Facebook (it’s happened, look it up) is the same Stazi-Gestapo bullshit Germany spent the better part of the 20th Century trying to escape, not to mention Eastern Europe as a whole. The “you can’t deny the Holocaust” laws are controversial enough already, the last thing we need to do is expand such fascistic attitudes.

    Yes, I understand that the subject matter in question is extremely delicate, but regardless – telling people they can’t deny the holocaust is ridiculous. Simply ordering them to take a class & get educated (ala professional work environments & work ethics courses) would be a far better solution than “prison (not to mention a hefty fine)! Because you offended the descendants of the victims (since 99% of the victims themselves are dead by now).

    “Right to Free Speech” so long as you don’t offend anyone? What about Religion? Religion is blatantly offensive, yet the Right to Free Religious Practice is sacred. Religions openly insult & offend each other (religious branches have even gone to war with each other, repeatedly), yet, they’re sacredly protected. Why do they get to be exempted, then, if non-Religious belief offences aren’t?

  • Honk Honk

    “I am all for freedom of speech, but”

    so youre not for freedom of speech then

  • RandomDev

    In other words germany wants to censor people who are critical of bringing in savages who emulate a rapist/murder/pedophile/slave trader (Yes Muhammad was all those things).

  • RandomDev

    Freedom of speech means you can say what ever the hell you want, freedom of action is a different matter however.

  • Zatara

    Well said. Most people fail to realise this, however, & as a result, the line between “speech” & “action” is blurring considerably.

  • Kinda like the line between fiction and reality, sadly…

  • “Should social media companies do a better job at removing speech considered illegal in European countries?”

    No. They should argue that the very concept of hate speech is an absurdity

  • Exactly, there is no “but”.

    Someone either supports freedom of speech or they support politically permitted speech.

  • DrearierSpider

    Pretty soon you’ll be chanting “Merkel Heil!”

  • Reptile

    “German Ministry of Love Sets March Deadline For Action Against Online Crimethink”
    Fixed the title for you guys!

  • Scootinfroodie

    I’m not aware of a right to not be insulted. Maybe it’s sitting there with the explicit right to insult

    I am, however, aware of laws that ultimately amount to wrongthink. It’s not the words alone that are punished, else a fair number of comedians would be behind bars. Rather it’s punishment for the wrong intent, the wrong idea, the wrong thought.

    Some people are ignorant assholes, but the solution should be to combat their ignorance, not to let them think themselves martyrs when they’re thrown in prison or fined for using words “wrong”

  • eltonBorges

    The more I see this the more I can’t deny that fascism is part of what makes Europe, well, Europe. This is not one government in specif, and I can’t see any really fighting against this kind of censorship. It’s sad to see.