BKA, The German federal police force, has conducted raids across the country in order to combat hate speech on Facebook. Homes were raided in 14 of Germany’s 16 states, but the operation was particularly focused on the state of Bavaria. This is Germany’s first nationwide raid operation to deal with online hate speech. No arrests have been made, but computers, smartphones and cameras have been seized by police.
Some or all of the raids were conducted as part of an investigation into a specific Facebook group. The group was said to glamorize National Socialism, which is a crime in Germany. Police said that group as well as other groups have posted xenophobic, antisemitic and radical far right content that violates the country’s hate speech laws. About 60 suspects are under investigation in connection to these groups.
BKA President Holger Münch stated that this operation shows the government’s determination in dealing with hate speech online. He also added that hate crimes have risen since the onset of the refugee crisis. He believes that the rising violence against refugees is caused by online hate speech which is poisoning public discussion. “That’s why we have to curb this increase in hate speech and make sure that criminal content is prosecuted without compromise,” he concluded.
Late last year, Facebook promised it would review all posts flagged for inciting hatred within 24 hours. Just days after the raid operation was conducted, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas took to Twitter to criticize Facebook for failing to live up to its promise. “Facebook does not delete enough comments and acts too slowly,” he stated. Currently, Facebook prioritizes content flagged by partnered organizations, but Maas suggests that Facebook should give the same importance to content flagged by individuals. Maas also suggested that he may push for more EU regulations to deal with hate speech, but that such a move would be unnecessary if companies like Facebook “live up to their responsibilities.”
Is hate speech on Facebook a serious problem like the German government believes? Leave your comments below.