In Germany, which has some of the toughest laws around hate speech – including prison sentences for #Holocaust denial and inciting hatred against minorities – political frustration with tech companies’ refusal to take responsibility for content posted on their sites has increased markedly in recent months.
Concerns over social media’s power to fire up populist narratives and boost conspiracy theories has increased after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s shock election in November, with politicians across Europe looking anxiously ahead to elections in France and Germany next year.
Online platforms that fail meet such legal requirements could be hit with fines calculated on the basis of their global annual turnover, or face on-the-spot fines of up to €500,000 if they neglect to remove posts in breach of German hate speech law within 24 hours.
Measures considered by Angela Merkel’s coalition government include forcing companies to set up clear channels for registering complaints, to publish the number of complaints they receive and to hire legally qualified ombudsmen to carry out deletions.
Germany is to consider new laws that would force social media platforms such as Facebook and search engines such as #Google to take a more active role in policing illegal hate speech on their sites.