Delete Hate Speech or Pay Up, Germany Tells Social Media Companies
By Melissa Eddy and Mark Scott
The New York Times
June 30, 2017
NOTE: Five times I've notified Facebook that the "Pizzagate" Facebook page is fake. Not only is it fake, it's slanderous and defamatory too. If our libel laws were stronger Jon Podesta and Hillary Clinton would win a case against whoever it is posts this crap in a heartbeat. But here in the United States of America where speech, speech of any kind no matter how offensive, no matter how libelous, not matter how vile or racist is not regulated. Because "Free." Here's what Germany has done:
BERLIN — Social media companies operating in Germany face fines of as much as $57 million if they do not delete illegal, racist or slanderous comments and posts within 24 hours, under a law passed on Friday.
The law reinforces Germany’s position as one of the most aggressive countries in the Western world at forcing companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to crack down on hate speech and other extremist messaging on their digital platforms.
But the new rules have also raised questions about freedom of expression. Digital and human rights groups, as well as the companies themselves, had opposed the law on the grounds that it placed limits on individuals’ right to free expression. Critics also said the legislation shifted the burden of responsibility to the providers from the courts, leading to last-minute changes in its wording.
Technology companies and free speech advocates argue that there is a fine line between policy makers’ views on hate speech and what is considered legitimate freedom of expression, and social networks say they do not want to be forced to censor those who use their services. Silicon Valley companies also deny that are failing to meet countries’ demands to remove suspected hate speech online.
Still, German authorities pressed ahead with the legislation. Germany witnessed an increase in racist comments and anti-immigrant rhetoric after the arrival of more than a million migrants, predominantly from Muslim countries, since 2015, and Heiko Maas, the justice minister who drew up the draft legislation, said on Friday that it ensured that rules that currently apply offline would be equally enforceable in the digital sphere.
“With this law, we put an end to the verbal law of the jungle on the internet and protect the freedom of expression for all,” Mr. Maas said. “We are ensuring that everyone can express their opinion freely, without being insulted or threatened.”
“That is not a limitation, but a prerequisite for freedom of expression,” he continued.
The law will take effect in October, less than a month after nationwide elections, and will apply to social media sites with more than two million users in Germany.
It will require companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google, which owns YouTube, to remove any content that is illegal in Germany — such as Nazi symbols or Holocaust denial — within 24 hours of it being brought to their attention.
The law allows for up to seven days for the companies to decide on content that has been flagged as offensive, but which may not be clearly defamatory or inciting violence. Companies that persistently fail to address complaints by taking too long to delete illegal content face fines that start at 5 million euros, or $5.7 million, and could rise to as much as €50 million.
Every six months, companies will have to publicly report the number of complaints they have received and how they have handled them.
In Germany, which has some of the most stringent anti-hate speech laws in the Western world, a study published this year found that Facebook and Twitter had failed to meet a national target of removing 70 percent of online hate speech within 24 hours of being alerted to its presence.
The report noted that while the two companies eventually erased almost all of the illegal hate speech, Facebook managed to remove only 39 percent within 24 hours, as demanded by the German authorities. Twitter met that deadline in 1 percent of instances. YouTube fared significantly better, removing 90 percent of flagged content within a day of being notified.
Facebook said on Friday that the company shared the German government’s goal of fighting hate speech and had “been working hard” to resolve the issue of illegal content. The company announced in May that it would nearly double, to 7,500, the number of employees worldwide devoted to clearing its site of flagged postings. It was also trying to improve the processes by which users could report problems, a spokesman said.
Representatives from Google and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The standoff between tech companies and politicians is most acute in Europe, where freedom of expression rights are less comprehensive than in the United States, and where policy makers have often bristled at Silicon Valley’s dominance of people’s digital lives.
But advocacy groups in Europe have raised concerns over the new German law.
Mirko Hohmann and Alexander Pirant of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin criticized the legislation as “misguided” for placing too much responsibility for deciding what constitutes unlawful content in the hands of social media providers.
“Setting the rules of the digital public square, including the identification of what is lawful and what is not, should not be left to private companies,” they wrote.
Even in the United States, Facebook and Google also have taken steps to limit the spread of extremist messaging online, and to prevent “fake news” from circulating. That includes using artificial intelligence to automatically remove potentially extremist material and banning news sites believed to spread fake or misleading reports from making money through the companies’ digital advertising platforms.
NOTE: Do not think that "fake news" like the "Pizzagate" Facebook page is benign, i.e. doesn't hurt anybody. What fake bullshit does is to undermine the integrity of facts and data and we are so far down that rabbit hole in 2017 that I doubt we'll ever make it back to the ground level. Remember, Edgar Welch, enraged by the evidence that a child pedophile ring run by Jon Podesta and Hillary Clinton out of the Comet restaurant, drove up from North Carolina and fired off a couple of shots with an AR-15 just to show how angry he was. Actually, this is what he said: "He said he "came to D.C. with the intent of helping people I believed were in dire need of assistance, and to bring an end to a corruption that I truly felt was harming innocent lives." Welch was tried and convicted of interstate transort of a firearm and assault with a dangerous weapon. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
And yet, the Facebook "Pizzagate" page still exists.
Below is the fifth entry about "Pizzagate" when I just Googled it:
In 2016, the largest pedophile ring ever found was exposed by the FBI. Fake news like CNN didn't cover it. Throw away your fake news. Pizzagate is real.
Be Careful Out There! You Never Know When Some Wazoo Is Going to Take the Law Into His Own Hands.
From the still active Facebook "Pizzagate" page.