Germany's New Social Media Hate Speech Law Is Now Being Enforced
2017 was the year public sentiment
began to turn against
massive tech conglomerates like
, companies affected by the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) include "Facebook,
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 content-Facebook's 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.
Critics of the law have included a medley of groups including lobbyists for internet companies, free-speech activists, Reporters Without Borders, and far-right party Alternative for Germany (notable in part due to its rapid growth and
flirtation with fascism
). They've variously identified issues like the risk of
"It is certainly possible that the head of state could take direct influence," lawyer Simon Assion told Suddeutsche Zeitung , according to Deutsche Welle. "The Justice Ministry has access to how social networks implement their deleting mechanisms."
Twitter, Google, and Facebook, however, may have encouraged its passage by promising to voluntarily
set up a similar system
in 2015-and then largely failing to comply with the 24-hour deadlines sought by German authorities. According to the
New York Times
, a yearlong study found that while the services did eventually delete "nearly all illegal
German authorities have also tackled the problem from the other end, launching
raids of dozens of homes