Major Social Media Companies Agree to Remove Hate Speech in Germany
On Tuesday Germany announced that popular social networking and media websites YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all agreed to remove any hate speech that appears on their networks within 24 hours of a removal request.
Unfortunately, the stream of over one million immigrants seeking refuge in Germany has triggered a sharp spike in anti-foreigner statements on the internet.
The regulation will not impede free speech so long as the speaker (or writer) is expressing an opinion that is “legitimate”, even if some might find it objectionable.
In the U.S., hate speech refers to any speech, gesture, conduct, writing or display that is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.
The Germans’ definition of hate speech was not outlined at the time of the announcement, and the particular methods by which “objectionable” opinions and hate speech will be differentiated have not yet been disclosed.
The terms of this agreement make Google, Facebook and Twitter responsible for providing user-friendly mechanisms for the submission of removal requests. They will also need to review specific reports of hateful content and incitement to violence via community guidelines and German law.
Although the specific “community guidelines” of each site may vary, they will need to be in concordance with section 130 of the German code which states, “Whoever disseminates, publicly displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes accessible written material (section 11(3)) capable of serving as an instruction for an unlawful act named in section 126(1) and intended by its content to encourage or cause others to commit such an act, shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine.”
Additionally, the statute states, “Whosoever
- disseminates publicly, displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes accessible written material (Section ww(3)) capable of serving as an isntruaciton for an unlawful act named in section 126(1); or
- gives instructions for an unlawful act named in section 126(1) publicly or in a meeting,
in order to encourage or cause others to commit such an act, shall incur the same penalty.”
As stated before, when a removal request is received, dedicated teams at whichever respective company must review it and make a decision within 24 hours. They will have access to German experts and expert legal specialists if necessary.
Users can also have their accounts suspended if warranted.
Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, had this to say:
“While we understand companies’ compliance with the law, this sets a bad precedent in that it likely implements systems that could be used by other governments with less noble intentions.”
She continued to retort that such a ruling would never occur in the United States, where even hate speech has not been made illegal. According to York, even popular politicians espouse hate speech all the time.
The companies feel that they are doing the right thing by complying.
“There’s no place for content such as hate speech, incitement or glorification of violence on Facebook,” claimed company spokesperson Tine Kulow. “We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.”