The Stream

Germany’s new hate speech bill

Draft legislation aims to fine social networks for failing to regulate misinformation and illegal content.

Germany is known for having some of the world’s toughest hate speech laws, and now the government wants social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to get in line.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas says these social networks are not doing enough to combat hate rhetoric and ‘fake news’. The number of racist and xenophobic posts targeting refugees and migrants in the country has brought the issue to the forefront. This is why Maas introduced a bill aimed at effectively addressing the spread of illegal content online. The draft law outlines penalties for companies who do not enforce regulations within a timeframe. Failing to comply comes with fines up to $54 million.

Critics of the bill are asking why the government wants to put the responsibility on private companies instead of enforcing existing laws. The European Union’s digital commissioner recently said there is already legislation to deal with misinformation and bigoted posts.

US companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter have been tweaking their community standards for years, wrestling with how much regulation is too much. Freedom of speech is a right recognised by both the United States and Germany, but Germany’s history has led to provisions that ensure protections against those spreading hate.

While many organisations are welcoming the steps taken by the government, some want more to be done for people subjected to online abuse. So is Germany’s approach to hate in the digital age the right move?

In this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Christian Solmecke @solmecke
IT Lawyer

Sina Laubenstein @SinaLaubenstein
Co-Project Manager, No Hate Speech Movement Deutschland

Hannes Grassegger @HNSGR
Reporter, Das Magazin & Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin

Volker Tripp @ScorchBonnet
Advocacy Manager, Digitale Gesellschaft

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.