German ministers have recently approved plans to fine technology companies if they fail to remove hate speech and so-called “fake news” quickly enough. The law entails fines to the tune of approximately £42.7m if technology companies do not remove problematic posts within 24 hours of it being reported (or seven days to deal with less clear-cut cases). The approval comes one month after the draft law, the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, was unveiled. It was later amended to include other prescriptive measures relating to child abuse imagery. Google, Facebook and Twitter are likely to be particularly affected.
The German Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas, implored technology companies to do more to deal with what is perceived as hate speech and fake news. He said that freedom of speech stops where criminal activity begins.
Others have raised concerns over the measures. The head of the Digital Society Association, Volker Tripp, said: “It is the wrong approach to make social networks into a content police.”
It is not the first time that relations between the German government and technology companies have been strained. In 2016, Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded that social media organisations make their algorithms public as they ran the risk of making users have “tunnel vision” which in turn will breed extremist views.