Germany looks to revise social media law as Europe watches

From Reuters - March 8, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German law requiring social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to quickly remove hate speech from their sites is set to be revised following criticism that too much online content is being blocked, according to officials.

The law, which came into full force on Jan. 1, is the most ambitious effort by a Western democracy to control what appears on social media. It aims to ensure Germanys tough prohibitions against hate speech, including pro-Nazi ideology, areenforced online by requiring sites to remove banned content within 24 hours or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($62 million).

The law, called NetzDG for short, is an international test case and how it plays out is being closely watched by other countries considering similar measures.

German politicians forming a new government told Reuters they want to add an amendment to help web users get incorrectly deleted material restored online.

The lawmakers are also pushing for social media firms to set up an independent body to review and respond to reports of offensive content from the public, rather than the individual companies doing that themselves.

Such a system, similar to how video games are policed in Germany, could allow a more considered approach to complex decisions about whether to block content, legal experts say.

The proposed changes follow widespread criticism from opponents of the law, including free speech campaigners and the Association of German Journalists, who say the threat of hefty fines is prompting internet firms to err on the side of caution and block more content than is necessary.

They point to several high-profile cases, including when a satirical magazines Twitter account was blocked after it parodied anti-Muslim comments.

Facebook, which says it has 1,200 people in Germany working on reviewing posts out of 14,000 globally responsible for moderating content and account security, said it was not pursuing a strategy to delete more than necessary.

People think deleting illegal content is easy but its not, said Richard Allan, Facebooks vice president for EMEA public policy. Facebook reviews every NetzDG report carefully and with legal expertise, where appropriate. When our legal experts advise us, we follow their assessment so we can meet our obligations under the law.

Twitter declined to comment on how it is implementing the law, while Googles YouTube said it would continue to invest heavily in staff and technology to comply with NetzDG.



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