Facebook & Twitter Can Now Be Fined Millions In Germany For Not Deleting Hate Speech

Under a new law in Germany, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can face massive fines if hate speech and other illegal material is not removed promptly.

Starting Jan. 1, the Network Enforcement Act (known commonly as the NetzGD) will require social networking sites with more than 2 million users (for example, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) to delete illegal content within 24 hours (a period of 7 days is given for special cases). If not, the networks can face fines as large at £45 million.

Under the German law, hate speech, encouraging violence, and spreading propaganda is against the law.

The law, which passed in July, does not apply to messaging applications.

Facebook and Twitter in particular have been heavily criticised for not doing enough to stop harassment and the spread of fake news on their platforms. A recent investigation by ProPublica illustrated how Facebook's policy for enforcing their own code of conduct is uneven at best.

In a statement to Refinery29, a spokesperson for Facebook said the company shares "the goal of the German government to fight hate-speech" and has "already made great progress in the removal of illegal content."

"In compliance with NetzDG we have put in place a reporting process which is separate from our Community Standards reporting. In doing so, we aim to be transparent and make it possible for all people — regardless of whether they are registered on our platform or not — to report content in accordance with the NetzDG," the statement reads in part.

Twitter recently rolled out new anti-abuse guidelines and starting removing their blue verification check marks from white supremacist users.

In November, YouTube (which is owned by Google), began removing videos by extremists, even if those videos do not depict violence or hate speech.