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Germany can now fine social media companies for 'hate speech' from their users

A new law in Germany allows the state to fine social media companies as much as $60 million for "hate speech" on their websites. (Image Source: YouTube screenshot)

A new law went into effect on the first day of 2018 that allows Germany to fine social media companies for any hate speech from their users that they don't squash quickly enough. And it's gonna cost them millions.

What does the law say?

The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law says that hate speech that is flagged could be fined up to $60 million if it isn't removed from a social media website after 24 hours.

Who does it apply to?

The NetzDG law affects social media companies with over 2 million users, which applies to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and others. It also applies to the Russian social network VK.

YouTube released a statement over the new law.

“We’re committed to being part of the solution to illegal hate speech and extremist content online — around the world, and in Germany, working within its new legal framework,” the statement read.

“We’ll continue to invest heavily in teams and technology to allow us to go further and faster in removing content that breaks our rules or German law, and by working with government, law enforcement, civil society groups, and other companies," it concluded.

Free speech problems

Digital Trends explains some of the concern over free speech, especially in Europe where speech is less protected than in the United States:

Some in Germany (and around the world) worry that the provisions could result in censorship or infringe upon free speech. But Germany is far from the only country to criticize social media platforms for their role in spreading false information and otherwise unsavory material — lawmakers in the U.K. for example, have said that these networks are “shamefully far” from adequately addressing hate speech and problematic content.

Many have called for such government intervention in the United States, citing online "bullies" and the effect that hate speech has had on the political landscape over the last decade.

Others says that the abuses do not outweigh the importance that free speech has in a representative Republic.

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