Facebook: States should not pass on hate-fighting tasks to companies

Facebook has reacted to Germany’s plans to pass a law requiring prompt removal of hate posts from social media. The company disagrees with the plans, saying states should not shift responsibility for the removal onto companies.

The social network shared its position with the German newspaper Wirtschafts Woche. In it, Facebook said: “The bill violates European law and has privacy and constitutional concerns.” About the responsibility, the company said: “The rule of law should not shift its own negligence and responsibility onto companies. Preventing and combating hate speech and fake news is a public task, which the state cannot discard.”

The bill states that a fine of up to 50 million euros can be imposed if messages are not deleted in time. In its position, Facebook says the fine is “disproportionate to the offense.” In a response to Engadget, the company also said that the fine encourages the removal of content that is not clearly illegal.

The German government submitted the proposal for the so-called Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz in April. The proposal includes measures against fake news, hate messages and other messages with ‘criminal content’. The latter includes libel, defamation, public incitement, sedition, threats, child pornography and terrorist offenses on services such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social networks must offer a clear and easily accessible reporting procedure that allows users to submit these types of messages. If messages are clearly punishable, the companies must remove or block them within 24 hours of receiving the report. A period of seven days applies to other punishable content.

A year ago in the European Union, the Commission established a code of conduct on the removal of hate speech content from the Internet. This sparked criticism from civil rights groups, who said it gave the companies the power to judge what content is and isn’t allowed. In December last year it appeared that the EU was not satisfied with the approach and in April reports came out that regulations in this area are being considered. Last week, the Commission said that more information will follow shortly.