Social Media Sites In Germany Can Now Be Fined Millions For Not Deleting Hate Speech

A new law took effect on Jan. 1, affecting Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram.
A man walks in front of the Facebook logo at the Facebook Innovation Hub in Berlin.
A man walks in front of the Facebook logo at the Facebook Innovation Hub in Berlin.
Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Social media sites in Germany could face hefty fines under a new law if they don’t act quickly to remove hate speech, fake news and other illegal materials from their platforms.

Germany’s controversial Network Enforcement Act, also known as the NetzDG law, took effect Jan. 1 after a grace period. The law requires any internet platform with more than 2 million users to implement a system for reporting and scrubbing potentially illicit content, including “threats of violence and slander,” according to Deutsche Welle.

Under the new law, sites are given 24 hours (or seven days for more “legally complex” cases) to investigate and delete illegal content after a complaint is received. Violators face fines of up to $60 million.

Social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram, will fall under the purview of the new law, according to Deutsche Welle. Professional networks like LinkedIn, however, are “expressly excluded, as are messaging services like WhatsApp.”

The Local reported in August that Facebook had hired several hundred people in Germany to review and delete illegal content. Facebook said at the time it intended to increase the number of employees who review and delete content to 7,500 globally, from 4,500.

Though the NetzDG law has been hailed by lawmakers as a necessary measure to push companies to “fulfil their obligations” to delete illegal content, opponents have called the legislation an “Orwellian” barrier to free speech.

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