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Facebook on trial in Germany

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  • Facebook on trial in Germany
    Munich court to try Facebook's Zuckerberg for inciting hatred

    Mark Zuckerberg and several other senior Facebook staff are facing charges of abetting crimes like Holocaust denial. German authorities believe the social media giant is not doing enough to censor the offensive posts.

    A Munich court has opened a lawsuit against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, German media reported on Friday. News outlet "der Spiegel" wrote on its website, before the main weekly magazine's Saturday release, that it had obtained court documents charging the social media mogul with incitement to hatred.

    Zuckerberg is reportedly being charged alongside Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, chief Europe lobbyist Richard Allan, and his Berlin counterpart Eva-Maria Kirschsieper.

    According to Spiegel, the complaint comes from the Würzburg-based attorney Chan-jo Jun. In the suit, he accuses Facebook of tolerating appeals for murder, threats of violence, and Holocaust denial, among other things.

    Laws regulating hate speech in Germany are extremely tight, with most Nazi symbolism and racist propaganda strictly forbidden, a legacy of Germany's role in World War II. Although Facebook is obliged to remove illegal content from its site, it has repeatedly garnered hefty criticism for the time it takes to do so.

    Germany cracks down on online hate

    Justice Minister Heiko Maas has made hate speech on social media something of a pet project, threatening Twitter and Facebook specifically with being "too slow" in removing offending posts. Maas has pushed a new initiative in Brussels to create EU-wide laws that would hand out stricter penalties for racist or xenophobic content.

    Spreading racist ideology can come at a hefty price in Germany. Last month, a man in Würzburg became the latest to see jail time over an online post advocating racial hatred. The posts in question advocated violence against Jews, foreigners, and refugees. Although the defendant expressed remorse, he was handed a prison sentence of two years and three months.

    Facebook has often said it stands unequivocally against hate speech, and would work in the future to ensure a swifter removal of related posts.
    Germany has been running a long-time crusage against in particular Facebook and Twitter on the matter, including more recently planning to change laws Europe-wide to better grab them by the balls. Some of the plans of our rightwing-conservative government do meet resistance within Germany too though, mostly on data retention and such.

    A similar case was already brought against Zuckerberg and his cronies last year in Hamburg, which additionally had a claim of Facebook supporting terrorist groups. The Hamburg case went cold after the court decided that Zuckerberg and other Americans, if they had committed a crime, did so outside German jurisdiction, and that the managers of Facebook Germany were not guilty by association since Facebook Germany is only a company front for acquiring customers. The Hamburg case also initiated investigations into Facebook supporting terrorism with the Federal Attorney, the relevant authority for investigating such crimes.
    The case in Munich now is brought by the same attorney as the Hamburg case, Chan-Jo Jun. The difference to the Hamburg case is that by now Facebook is running a German-based "control team" that checks complaints against posts, meaning the aiding and abetting act would now take place in German jurisdiction. The list of offences being cited in the case is not limited to "inciting hatred", but also includes "abetting threats" (of murder).

    The court case against a Facebook user mentioned in the last paragraph above was a rare one - they only get that kinda thing once a year these days. People sentenced to prison sentences for such generally bring a long court history on that matter too. There was a larger series of raids by the BKA (German counterpart of the FBI) against perps in September though, so there might be some better results now.

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