Germany is taking the fight straight to Facebook and Twitter as it seeks to bring an end to the menace of fake news. The European powerhouse through its ministry of justice, presented a bill that would see Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies pay fine if they fail to act decisively against fake news.
Fine could be as high as €50 million if any of the social media company failed to act decisively to get rid of illegal content on their platform. Illegal content in this context could mean hate speech and defamatory fake news, reports BuzzFeed.
The terms of the bill, according to the report, would see companies fined for failing to remove illegal content within a 24-hour grace period. However, companies would have the 24-hour period extended to seven days when it involves less clear cut cases. Cases spelt out as less clear cut could include, libel, hate crime, and threats.
Last year, Germany threatened to impose fine on Facebook over failure to deal with fake news. The European country warned that should the social media behemoth continue to circulate fake news; it could face a fine of up to $523,320 apiece. However, similar fine could apply to other social media companies; though, Facebook takes the biggest share of the blame from Germany’s perspective.
Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas had this to say about his country’s battle against fake news:
“Defamation and malicious gossip are not covered under freedom of speech,” Maas said. “Justice authorities must prosecute that, even on the internet. Anyone who tries to manipulate the political discussion with lies needs to be aware [of the consequences.]”
Germany is of the view that only through legislation can the menace caused by fake news through social media can be dealt with. This view was echoed by none other person than the parliamentary floor leader of conservatives Volker Kauder. Per the Wall Street Journal, Kauder said:
“After years of discussions, the social media must now unfortunately be forced to take responsibility.” “Only in this way we can counter further brutalization and willful manipulation of political debate in the net.”
“Facebook is earning an awful lot of money with fake news.” “A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility. Prosecutable defamation must be deleted immediately, once reported. It needs to be made easier for users to report fake news.”
The new law, according to BuzzFeed, would demand that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter put in place effective and transparent complaint management systems to make it easier for everyone to report content.
Lawmakers in Germany are constantly worried by the threats posed by fake news especially as the general elections draw near. The lawmakers are troubled by the influence fake news could have on the outcome of the upcoming election. The last couple of months have been tough for citizens of the European country as a number of fake stories and hoaxes have continued to gain more prominence.
Last January, Facebook launched fake news filter in Germany—hopefully, the company can put its act together and deal with the problem before things get out of hand.