World News

Germany’s Change in Social Media Responsibility

Germany’s government approved a law on Wednesday, February 19, that requires social media firms to report illegal content to the police or face fines of up to $54 million. 

Content including hate speech, racial provocation, terrorism, and child abuse images must already be erased within 24 hours, according to German law. Under the new law, such content would also have to be reported to the Office of the Federal Criminal Police as soon as it’s found. Social media firms would have to give police the last IP address related to the account responsible for such content.

 

 

This law was first introduced following a terrorist attack in eastern Germany last October, in which a gunman tried to attack a synagogue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The confrontation ended with the deaths of two innocent individuals. On Wednesday, the Federal Cabinet accepted the proposal, which now must be voted on in Germany’s parliament. 

Germany has been leading the effort of policing the internet and is eager to take strong action against illegal online content. It’s taken the stance that the burden for dealing with this type of content is solely the internet platform’s on which such content has been posted. The nation has strict rules on dealing with hate speech and the government is now demanding social media firms to play an active role in identifying the perpetrators. 

Germany’s solution to dealing with hate speech is in stark contrast with the rest of the EU, which instead of passing laws asked technology giants to agree to a series of non-binding rules. Critics of the German plan have declared that it paves the way towards internet censorship.

Lawmakers in Germany’s parliament must now search for a way to balance freedom of expression and the right to remain anonymous online while maintaining individuals safe and limiting the further spread of hate speech. 

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