German Minister Sets March Deadline For Action Against Online Hate Speech

Published: September 27, 2016 3:37 PM /


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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.

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