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Social Media Hate Speech Law comes into force in Germany

5 October 2017

As of this month, a new law has come into effect in Germany which aims to regulate hate content being posted and shared on social media platforms.

The law, called “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” (which translates as “Enforcement on Social Networks”), was passed in June following a series of high profile cases of hate speech and fake news being spread via social media in Germany. It means that companies such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will be required to remove any obviously illegal posts within 24 hours after receiving a complaint – or pay a fine of up to €50m (£44.3m). In some cases, where the posts are not ‘obviously’ criminal, social media sites will have up to seven days to evaluate the content before deleting them.

What’s happening in the UK and Europe-wide?

Although no laws of this kind are currently in effect in the United Kingdom, the UK has led a push among G7 members to urge social media giants to do more to tackle extremism on their sites more efficiently. At a recent UN Summit, Prime Minister Theresa May called for internet companies to take down extremist content shared by terrorist groups within two hours.

The European Union is also being more proactive in removing hate speech online. The European Council approved proposals in May to require social networks to block videos containing hate speech or terrorism-related content. These proposals still need to be approved by the European Parliament before they become law.

The EU also recently released a set of guidelines for social media sites which include investing in tools to prevent extremist content being shared and automatically flagging anything which incites violence, terrorism or hatred. The European Commission has stated that tech firms will be closely monitored by the EU over the next few months. This comes after a research project undertaken by the Commission in 2016 found that only 40% of reported hate speech was removed within 24 hours.