Germany Passes Law Penalizing Social Networks for Hate Speech

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Photo: Kevin Gessner/Flickr

German lawmakers on Friday adopted the controversial NetzDG legislation into law. Short for “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” (“network enforcement law”), the bill penalizes social-media companies like Facebook that are not responsive enough in taking down hate speech on their platforms.

At the heart of NetzDG are strict financial penalties for companies that fail to take down “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours. Failing to do so will result in a fine of 50 million euros (or $57 million) per infraction. The law does not take effect until after German federal elections in September.

NetzDG is significantly stricter on regulating platforms than any other legislation in the world. Traditionally, large platforms have been protected by “safe harbor” laws, which allow platforms to shirk responsibility for illegal content they host. Germany’s speech laws, which are stricter than America’s, will place more of the burden for moderation on large social networks.

In a statement emailed to the Verge, Facebook criticized the rule, noting, “this law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem,” and that “the lack of scrutiny and consultation do not do justice to the importance of the subject.” Free-speech proponents have also expressed worry about the bills implications.

Germany Passes Law Fining Social Networks for Hate Speech