Facebook is speaking out against a proposed German law that would leave social media firms open to massive fines for failure to delete hate speech or fake news in a timely fashion.
The problem with the bill being put forward by German justice minister Heiko Maas, Facebook said in a statement, is it could lead social networks to delete legal content to avoid any possibility of being slapped with fines of up to $53 million.
The Network Enforcement Act, if passed, would force social media firms to not only make it easier for members to report offensive content, but to respond to said complaints more quickly. All “obviously criminal content” would have to be taken down within 24 hours. The networks would have a full week to remove posts that were less obvious in nature.
Social media companies would also be obligated to submit quarterly reports regarding the handling of complaints as well as the content relevant to criminal law. The reports would also have to be made accessible to the public. Failure to comply would result in fines.
Facebook is calling the bill, as it sits before parliament, unsuitable to fight hate speech and fake news because it does not give social networks enough time to sift through the large volume of complaints it receives and could lead its monitors to simply delete flagged posts to avoid fines.
“The draft law provides an incentive to delete content that is not clearly illegal when social networks face such a disproportionate threat of fines,” Facebook said in a statement to Engadget. “It would have the effect of transferring responsibility for complex legal decisions from public authorities to private companies.”
Facebook noted that “several legal experts” have concluded the bill not only fails to comply with EU law but breaches the German constitution as well.
Facebook, Google and Twitter all reached an agreement with Germany back in December 2015 to remove hate speech from their sites within 24 hours of it being reported. The agreements came about after a few months of talks with each company, spurred by the racist posts in response to Germany’s decision to take in up to one million migrants and refugees in 2015. The influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan angered nationalists, in particular neo-Nazi groups which took to social networks to vent their rage.
Facebook this year rolled out its fake news filtering tools in Germany in a bid to make the reporting of hoaxes and the flagging of stories as disputed easier.