Though they have different points of origin, hate speech and fake news have both seen a spike across social media in recent years. The latter has even gotten a bit of a boost from sites that allow you to handily bend facts to the right or left with some keywords. When even the president is confidently sharing secondhand info that hasn’t been vetted, you know you have a problem. The only real way to avoid the latest “but her emails!” accusations and lizard people conspiracies seems to be avoiding going online, which, let’s face it, is probably never going to happen. So, in an attempt to curb this spread, Germany has decided to take social media platforms to task for allowing unsubstantiated claims to proliferate in their nooks of the internet.
According to CNN Money, the German cabinet has approved a bill that would fine Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites for not removing “illegal content” in an expeditious manner. The plan requires these companies to remove hate speech and fake news within 24 hours of being reported, and gives them seven days (from the time items are reported) to remove other illegal content. Otherwise, the government could fine these groups up to $53 million (U.S. currency) for failure to remove the content in question. The bill will now go through the German parliament, where it’s expected to pass.
In a statement to CNN Money, justice minister Heiko Maas wrote “The providers of social networks are responsible when their platforms are misused to propagate hate crimes and fake news.” He also indicated that too little objectionable content is being removed, let alone in a timely manner. Naturally, Facebook is opposed to these fines, telling CNN Money that it actually works “very hard to remove illegal content.” Furthermore, it cites experts who say “this legislation would force private companies rather than the courts to become the judges of what is illegal in Germany.” And considering how poor a judge of such matters Facebook has been, allowing the company and others like it to make these decisions might not be advisable. But Maas wants to push the bill along, and make it law before September’s general election.