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Thread: Germany’s social media hate speech law is now in effect

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Germany’s social media hate speech law is now in effect

    Germany’s social media hate speech law is now in effect | Tech Crunch | Oct 2 2017

    A new law has come into force in Germany aimed at regulating social media platforms to ensure they remove hate speech within set periods of receiving complaints — within 24 hours in straightforward cases or within seven days where evaluation of content is more difficult.

    The name of the law translates to ‘Enforcement on Social Networks’. It’s also referred to as NetzDG, an abbreviation of its full German name.

    Fines of up to €50 million can be applied under the law if social media platforms fail to comply, though as Spiegal Online reports there is a transition period for companies to gear up for compliance — which will end on January 1, 2018. However the Ministry in charge has started inspections this month.

    Social platform giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were couched as the initial targets for the law, but Spiegal Online suggests the government is looking to apply the law more widely — including to content on networks such as Reddit, Tumblr, Flickr, Vimeo, VK and Gab.

    The usage bar for complying with the takedown timeframes is being set at a service having more than two million registered users in Germany.

    While Spiegal Online reports that the German government is intending to have 50 people assigned to the task of implementing and policing the law.

    It also says all social media platforms, regardless of size, must provide a contact person in Germany for user complaints or requests for information from investigators. Recent queries will need to be answered within 48 hours or risk penalties, it adds.

    One obvious question here is how any fines could be applied across international borders if a social media firm has no bricks-and-mortar presence in Germany, though.

    The law does also require social media firms operating in Germany to appoint a contact person in the country. But again, those companies that are outside Germany may be rather hard to police — unless the government intends to start trying to block access to non-compliance services which would only invite further controversy.

    The Germany cabinet backed the proposal for the law back in April. At the time, justice minister Heiko Maas said: “Freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins.”

    The country has specific hate speech laws which criminalize certain types of speech, such as incitement to racial and religious violence, and the NetzDG law cites sections of the existing German Criminal Code — applying itself specifically to social media platforms.

    Germany not alone in Europe at seeking to clamp down on illegal content being spread and amplified via social media, either.

    The UK has also been active recently in leading a push by several G7 nations against online extremism — with the apparent aim of reducing takedown times for this type of content to an average of just two hours.

    Germany has also been pushing for a European Union wide response to tackling the spread of hate speech across online platforms.

    And last week the European Commission put out new guidance for social media platforms urging them to be more pro-active about removing “illegal content” — including by developing tools to automative identification and prevent re-uploading of problem content.

    It warned social giants that it might seek to draft a legislative proposal if they do not improve takedown performance within six months.

    However the executive body appears to be seeking to bundle up various types of “illegal” content into the same problem bucket — and quickly drew criticism it risks encouraging algorithmic censorship by seeking to create one set of rules to apply to copyrighted content and terrorist propaganda, for example. Which does underline the risks around broad efforts to regulate the types of content that can and can’t be viewed online.

    Critics of Germany’s NetzDG law argue it will encourage tech platforms to censor controversial content to avoid the risk of big fines. And while speedy social media takedowns of offensive hate speech might enjoy mainstream backing in Germany, it remains to be seen how the law will operate in practice.

    Meanwhile, if overly expansive rules end up being fashioned to try to regulate all sorts of “illegal” content online that could also result in a wider chilling effect on online expression, and reduced support for broad regulatory efforts.
    The Brits are said to be actively considering it too..FARK!

    Thought this is to limit extremist online recruitment, but it looks like there is another effect. If someone does not like what you posted could they demand it be taken down. Who arbitrates this

    Last edited by Double Edge; 14 Oct 17, at 20:23.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Peace and prosperity (china model) or Freedom and Democracy (free world model)

    You decide

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    It is about integration. Big thing this integration in Europe. I get it..


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    It's basically just a new weapon in Germany's ongoing war against Facebook. The German moniker for it is actually "The Facebook Law".

    Curbing "extremist online recruitment" is in no way the intended vector btw, the intended curbing is for hate speech only. It is worded to only affect "social network platforms with a minimum membership of 2 million people" - that's a pretty limited list: Facebook (26m in Germany), Instagram (9m), Snapchat (4m), Twitter (3m) and Pinterest (3m). Professional networking sites - Xing (7m) and LinkedIn (6m) - are excluded, as are any messenger services such as WhatsApp (37m) or Skype (9m).

    It was one of the last laws passed by the Grand Coalition, with only a few dozen representatives voting on it - the Left faction and one CSU rep voted against it, the Greens abstained. About every expert in Germany considers it unconstitutional - this is not unusual, since the Grand Coalition came into power the Supreme Court has basically become a test instance for new laws. The unconstitutionality - and it being attacked - is less because of its legal content (that's considered fair if done right), but more because of some of the allowed side effect measures that were mostly written into it by copyright lobbyists.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    If it is unconstitutional then that means its only a matter of time before it will be struck down ?

    The unconstitutionality - and it being attacked - is less because of its legal content (that's considered fair if done right), but more because of some of the allowed side effect measures that were mostly written into it by copyright lobbyists.
    This does ring a bell, remember music and movie lobby trying to get laws passed in the US that effectively force the internet service company to be the police.

    Didn't get very far

    The idea is similar here with social media and 'illegal' content
    Last edited by Double Edge; 14 Oct 17, at 21:10.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    If it is unconstitutional then that means its only a matter of time before it will be struck down ?
    The Supreme Court, if finding it unconstitutional, would give the government a deadline until when to replace the law with one that's constitutional (unless it's a really heavy violation of the constitution). Usually that deadline's then a year or so from the verdict. So we'll be stuck with it for a while.

    It should be noted that the actual law passed is considerably more mellow than the original draft - and most articles in the media are based on the draft. What is punished by the law is not "not removing illegal content" per se. What's punished - with fines - is not fulfilling the complaints management requirements laid out in the law. In e.g. a case of Facebook not removing obvious illegal content (a violation of the required process to be implemented) the authorities need to first prove in a court that that content itself is illegal. And the maximum fine has been lowered to five million.

    What the Left criticized about the passed law and why they voted against it is that they think that it places iudicative powers - deciding whether content is illegal - in private hands. This was also criticized by parts of the Greens, the Left additionally criticize the perceived restriction of freedom of opinion (this is also why the single CSU rep voted against it). The Greens abstained wholesale instead of voting against it because in their opinion such a law needs more discussion and that while they generally agree with it in principle they would have liked to only pass a restricted version of it and then discuss the rest first.

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    This does ring a bell, remember music and movie lobby trying to get laws passed in the US that effectively force the internet service company to be the police.

    Didn't get very far
    The main part that the lobbyists wanted to smuggle into it was omitted from the law that was actually passed. The original draft proposed that someone with a civil claim could force a provider to hand over identity data - i.e. basically a name to go with a IP address - and that without a court order. Pretty much the wet dream of attorneys in the Cease&Desist order business of copyright claims. The passed law effectively lays out the current situation - that you need a court order for that - while deferring court responsibility to the second instance (a measure to relieve the over-worked first instance local courts).

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