On December 17, major international news outlets started reporting Germany was considering fining companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for not dealing with illegal hate speech content and fake news on their social media platforms.
Apparently, Angela Merkel’s team wants the before mentioned companies to establish clear and efficient ways for users to issue complaints and report sites with illegal content.
Moreover, the German government might make social media companies to more people specifically to delete the flagged content.
If the social media platforms fail to meet Merkel’s team expectations, they could end up facing fines up to €500,000. That kind of money might not be a problem for companies like Facebook, but Germany is considering calculating the new penalties based on the year’s turnaround.
Why does Germany want to punish Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?
In 2015, Heiko Maas, a German justice minister, met with Google, Facebook, and Twitter and they all said they wanted to delete illegal content from their sites in less than 24 hours after it was found. However, they have not been able to do so.
In September, Germany published a report that shows Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube cannot cope with the sheer amount of illegal posts. According to the report, Facebook is deleting 46% of the content followed by YouTube with 10% and last twitter with only 1%.
What kind of online content is considered illegal by Germany?
In Germany, rules against hate speech are taken seriously. People can find themselves in jail for making a racist comment or treating someone in a despective way based on their religion, ethnicity, or sexuality. A taboo topic is denying the holocaust.
Some people believe the Jewish Holocaust during World War II did not happen, and the government severely punish anyone that preaches the idea.
Merkel’s team also looks at fake news the same way. They think social media platforms and even Google should come up with a way to stop disinformation on the net.
In the last couple of months, there have been reports of Google topping online queries with inadequate sites or ranking fake news. For example, people said the search engine would top the “Jewish holocaust” query with an anti-Semite site denying the event.
In other instances, Chrome has ranked fake news or sites that are infamous for its shady sources. As a result, the German government included Google in the list of companies that have to do something about misinformation and hate speech.
The government should go after the users, not the companies
The users are responsible for everything they post and read on the Internet. The net is an open space protected by neutrality laws in which everyone has the right to search and post whatever they want.
That freedom has given artists, developers, and many others the chance of making a career and sharing their talent with the world. However, not all the people surfing the net are nice, kindhearted individuals.
Some people use the Internet as a tool to air hate ideologies, discuss conspiracy theory, or spread fake news. They do it for money, for fun, or just because they are free to do so. With that in mind, users need to double check everything they see on the net before spreading it.
Companies like Facebook and Twitter offer a space inside the World Wide Web for people to share with their friends and meet new people. However, the users should be accountable for whatever content they upload on these sites.
Social media platforms need better methods to deal with fake news and illegal content, but should they pay for what their users say? Regardless, Germany’s actions could end up putting net neutrality at risk as companies could be forced to comply with their demands.
Source: The Guardian