Germany is serious about cracking down on hate speech.  Social media companies that don’t take down objectionable content within 24 hours of notification are facing massive fines. If posts are “obviously illegal” under German laws, companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (Google) can face fines up to $57 million dollars if they don’t remove posts within the 24-hour window.

The law was passed in June of 2017, but went into effect on January 1, 218.  Wonder how long it will take for someone to test it out.

Hate speech is strictly regulated in Germany.  “We will continue to fight against the linguistic brutalization on the internet,” said Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas in a news release. “To protect freedom of expression, we need to prevent a climate of fear and intimidation. Therefore, criminal hate and punishable lies in the future have to get out of the net faster. With this law, we come much closer to this goal.”

Facebook has said it will comply with the ruling, saying they recognize German laws forbid incitement to hatred.  “You could find yourself the subject of a police raid if you post such content online,” said Richard Allan, VP EMEA Public Policy at Facebook.  “In the US, on the other hand, even the most vile kinds of speech are legally protected under the US Constitution.”

Facebook says it has taken action – deleting around 66,000 posts reported as hate speech every week (288,000 post a month around the world).  If posts contain what Facebook calls “credible threats of imminent violence,” it escalates the situation to law enforcement.  The social media company says it takes several factors into consideration when deciding what needs to be removed, including context and intent.

Here’s how Facebook further defines hate speech:  “Our current definition of hate speech is anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their “protected characteristics” — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.”

Justice Minister Maas said that in the last two years, hate crime on the internet has increased by almost 300%.  He said it’s necessary to bring political pressure to get social media companies to do the right thing.  “Experience has shown that without political pressure the big platform operators will not fulfill their obligations and therefore this law is imperative,” he said.

“Every journalist who makes a newspaper, every publisher who publishes a book, every person who sits down on a wooden box and gives a speech in the marketplace must adhere to our laws and observe our criminal law. I see no reason why the same right should not apply to the big Internet companies. No one is above the law, not even Facebook.” – German Justice Minister Heiko Maas