German minister urges Facebook to purge racist posts

Social network agrees to hold talks with justice minister after widespread complaints of hate speech.

Angela Merkel visits refugee shelter in Heidenau
Germany is seeing growing anti-immigration sentiment amid an influx of refugees [EPA]

Facebook has accepted an invitation from Germany’s justice minister to hold talks on cracking down on racist posts on the social network site after widespread complaints from users.

In a letter to Facebook’s European subsidiaries, Justice Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday called for a meeting with company leaders on September 14 in Berlin to discuss the need for Facebook to do more to rid its website of xenophobic expressions.

According to an email sent to Al Jazeera from Facebook’s spokesperson, the social network agreed to talk with Maas, saying that it takes “his concerns very seriously” and that “Facebook is no place for racism”.

“We understand that Facebook has a very special responsibility, and we work hard every day to protect people on Facebook from abuse, hate speech and bullying,” the statement said.

“We are extremely interested in participating in an exchange with Federal Minister Maas so that we can determine what society, business and politics can do to collectively mitigate the diffusion of xenophobia in Germany,” it added.

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As Germany faces a record influx of refugees and a backlash from the far-right, social media sites like Facebook have seen a surge of hateful, xenophobic commentary.

‘Complaints ignored’

In a letter to Facebook public policy director Richard Allan in Dublin obtained by the Reuters news agency, Maas said he had received many complaints from users that their protests on racist posts have been ignored.

Users also accuse the company of double standards for cracking down swifter and harder on nudity and sexual content than on hate-mongering.

Maas said Facebook was required to delete posts in violation of German laws against incitement of racial hatred.

“We will be happy to support Facebook in any way we can, but ultimately I think it is in Facebook’s own interest, because no form of social media wants to be seen as a platform used excessively by right-wing extremists to spread ideological rubbish,” Maas added.

Facebook users in Berlin and the southern state of Bavaria have faced large fines this year for hate speech.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies