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Germany's New Social Media Hate Speech Law Is Now Being Enforced

Germany's New Social Media Hate Speech Law Is Now Being Enforced
From Gizmodo - January 1, 2018

2017 was the year public sentiment began to turn against massive tech conglomerates like Facebook and Google. But nowhere in the West has the backlash been bigger than Germany, which last year passed a sweeping anti-hate speech law requiring websites to promptly investigate reports of posts illegal under German law and delete them. On January 1st, 2018, the grace period before that law would begin being enforced by authorities expired.

Per broadcasterDeutsche Welle, companies affected by the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) include Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram, though professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing are expressly excluded, as are messaging services like WhatsApp. The BBC noted additional sites like Vimeo and Flickr could potentially be targeted by authorities under the law.

Germany has strict laws prohibiting content like neo-Nazi propaganda, swastikas, and Holocaust denial, and NetzDG will require the sites in question to investigate user reports of such postings, delete most within 24 hours, and act on more complicated cases within a week. The German parliament originally passed the law in late June 2017 and it went into force in October, but legislators gave sites three months to put together internal systems to remove the banned contentFacebooks compliance efforts entailed the hiring of several hundred staff, according to the BBC.

Per Deutsche Welle, users can report directly to German federal authorities, though the threat of non-compliance fines of up to $57 million (50 million euros) has apparently spurred companies into action:

Google has also created an online form to report content, while Twitter has added an option to its existing report function that specifies comes under the NetzDG. Facebook has set up a more complex system, independent of its reporting options, which requires users to find a special page, take a screenshot of the offending post, and choose one of 20 offenses that the post is allegedly committing. People do not have to be registered users of the network to report content.

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