Berlin plans new laws against hate on the web
The German government wants to force social networks to take stronger action in the battle against hate speeches and fake news. Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas has presented a draft bill obliging companies to erase punishable content within 24 hours of a complaint, barring which they would face fines. The press see the initiative as an important step and note that it is no coincidence that it comes in election year 2017.
Hatred must have no place on the Internet
The social networks are far too hesitant in taking action against punishable content, the Financial Times comments, praising the initiative by Justice Minister Heiko Maas:
“This should not be seen as an attack on free speech. ... Rather it is an effort to bring the enforcement of existing hate speech laws - and these are particularly tough in Germany as a result of its history - to hugely important media outlets that have grown and changed at a rate outstripping regulatory evolution. A regulation requiring a reporting mechanism and imposing fines for failing to police criminal activity once it has been reported makes good sense, broadly speaking. This is especially so given that social media networks have dragged their feet in response to growing pressure on them to face the responsibilities that come with being dominant distributors of news and information.”
Fears of Moscow interfering in election campaign
Germany has good reasons to step up its battle against hate tirades on the Internet now, Il Sole 24 Ore explains:
“The initiative can in part be explained by the huge rise in the number of hate tirades following Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision a year and a half ago to open the borders to refugees from the Middle East. Add to that fears that the spread of fake news on the Internet could play a role in the upcoming elections. Closely bound up with this is concern that Russia could interfere in the elections as it did last year in the US. The German intelligence services have already voiced concern on this point, particularly now that the populist xenophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) has gained support. Like other like-minded movements in Europe, the AfD could receive support from Moscow - also in the form of a digital disinformation campaign.”