Germany, fine 50 million against hate-fueled web companies

German Justice Minister says Facebook and Twitter are still unable to quickly remove illegal content reported by users

German Justice Minister has introduced a draft bill that would impose fines of up to 50 million euros - 53.2 million to be precise - on web companies that are unable to quickly remove hateful and inappropriate content from their platforms.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas presented the bill at a press conference today. According to the Associated Press, fines would be imposed whenever Facebook or other web companies do not quickly remove online threats, hate speech, or false and defamatory news. The minister also calls for social media companies to appoint a manager to handle complaints. In cases where companies fail to comply with the regulations - AP explains - they could be fined up to 50 million euros.

Not all social media are under indictment

The measures proposed by the Minister were announced with a report in hand that found that Twitter removes only 1% of illicit content reported by users, and that Facebook removes 39%. YouTube had, by comparison, made 90% of "offending" content disappear. The study, conducted between January and February, found that only 33% of illegal content on Facebook was blocked or removed within 24 hours, while none of the messages reported as "inappropriate" on Twitter were made to disappear within that timeframe.

German Minister Maas said that "it has become clear that we need to increase the pressure on social networks. We need stricter legal regulations to force companies to root out these crimes."

Germany on the warpath

Germany has long declared war on hate speech and defamation and is increasingly increasing pressure on U.S. web companies to more aggressively combat this kind of online content. Facebook, Google and Twitter - in 2015 - had agreed to review and remove posts that glorified hate and racism in Germany within 24 hours, and Maas had even suggested that Facebook should be treated as a media company under German law. Under the proposed law, any blatantly illegal content would have to be deleted within 24 hours, while content flagged as inappropriate at a later date would have to be removed within seven days.

Facebook and Twitter reaction

A Facebook spokesperson in a statement commented that "we have clear rules against hate speech and are working hard to keep these types of posts off our platform. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to solve this social problem. Over 700 people by the end of the year will be working for Facebook on content review in Berlin. We will examine the legislative proposal of the Federal Ministry of Justice." Twitter, on the other hand, declined to comment on the proposed legislation but instead pointed to recent initiatives the social has taken to reduce offensive content.