Germany starts enforcing hate speech law; violating social networks could face fines up to €50 million

According to this law, if social networks and other websites do not take down 'obviously illegal' material, then they could face a fine of up to €50 million.

Germany is all set to start enforcing the hate speech law which has been under discussion since mid-2017.

According to this law, if social networks and other websites do not take down 'obviously illegal' material, then they could face a fine of up to €50 million. The idea behind the law is to get rid of hate speech, fake news and illegal material online.

The German Parliament building. Image: Reuters

The German Parliament building. Image: Reuters

The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law was passed around the end of June 2017 and came into force by October 2017. But social media networks were given time until the end of 2017 to get its act together.

According to this law, after intimating a social media network or a website about the illegal content or hate-inducing content on its platform if the offensive content is not taken down, then the fine will be applicable.

Any social network with more than 2 million members will come under this law. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the NetzDG law's main focus according to the BBC, but it may as well be applicable to other social media networks such as Reddit, Tumblr or VKontakte. Even other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr can fall under the provision of the law.

Germany decided to pass the law after multiple cases of fake news and hate material circulating online were noticed. Popular social networks were found to be taking no action against racist material that was being spread through the German web sphere.

Citizens who feel that certain material violates the NetzDG law or if they feel social networks are not taking down offensive material, then there is a form made available on the German justice ministry website to report these sites.

Facebook has already recruited additional staff to ensure that content on its platform does not violate the NetzDG. In matters involving 'complex cases', the deadline can be stretched beyond 24 hours as well, says BBC.

But the NetzDG has also got a lot of flak from activists who feel that it is quite an extreme law. According to a lot of protestors, NetzDG would encourage unnecessary censorship as well.

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