It seems Germany won’t tolerate racist Facebook posts for much longer. In an interview with Reuters, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas explains that Facebook needs to do more deal with posts inciting hatred against racial minorities, in order to bring the site into accordance with German law. Maas pointed out that Germany has a narrower interpretation of free speech than some countries, like the United States. Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany, and Facebook will have to remove such content in order to continue operating in the country. “The Internet isn’t a place where laws are ignored, where indictable comments can be spread with impunity,” Maas stated.
This issue has taken on a new urgency for the government due to the growing violence targeted at refugees, including both arson of refugee housing as well as physical assaults against refugees. Over the weekend the situation escalated further, as an anti-refugee protest turned into a violent clash with police that left 31 officers injured. Maas was appalled that some Facebook users were using the site to spread hatred against the refugees, which may be further inflaming the situation. So far the German government has been ineffective in dealing with the growing violence, and is now trying anything at all to stem the tide.
Maas sent a letter to Richard Allen, Facebook’s public policy director, informing him that many user complaints about racist posts were being ignored by Facebook. Maas suggested a meeting on Septemeber 14 to discuss the issue. A representative for Facebook told Reuters that the company was taking Maas’s concerns seriously and was interested in a meeting. Maas is looking forward to the meeting and stated, “It’s in Facebook’s own inherent interest that it is not used as a platform for racist content.”
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