Dozens of technology companies have been working on algorithms that stop social media hate speech. Artificial Intelligence in that arena has progressed, but no company has come up with the secret formula yet. But there might be another way to look at things like hate speech and live violent videos - and Germany might have found that way.
Today, the German government released a statement warning social media users. If anyone is caught posting hate speech, violent videos, or fake news on social networks, those networks will be fined. How much? 50 million Euros. That’s around $57 million USD.
Further, the German government will fine the person responsible -- assigned by social media companies -- for dealing with government complaints 5 million Euros if the complaint is not dealt with in a sufficient manner. The new law also stipulates that social media companies must provide written reports of complaint numbers and how those complaints were dealt with every six months.
In other words, Germany isn’t messing around when it comes to social media hate speech.
The New Bill
The new German bill cracks down hard on hate speech, criminal materials, and fake news. This adds to already stiff German laws that have tough penalties for anyone spewing any kind of hate speech in the real world. The new social media bill takes those real world laws and pushes them into the virtual world.
For some, the new German crackdown on social media hate speech is a good thing - it somewhat solves the problem of social media users posting offensive material. On the flip side, the fines that come with being caught posting hate speech can be considered a damper on free speech. Free speech isn’t free if people are fined for posting a thought or opinion.
There’s another side to this new law too. The one that requires a definition of ‘hate speech.’
Who decides what is hate speech and what is not? Who determines what is offensive and what is not? That’s the question that many are asking upon hearing this news. We can assume that anyone would recognize what is and isn’t offensive, but that’s not always the case. What someone thinks is hate speech might just be an opinion - because, in the end, it is all a matter of opinion.
German Justice Minister (the driving force behind the law), Haiko Maas told press that ‘freedom of speech ends where criminal law begins,’ so we can assume that the laws governing the new bill will reflect those that are used within German society. Even so, it might not be so black and white on the internet. The law also cracks down on fake news.
In recent months, Germany has accepted more than one million immigrants. This influx of new residents has a lot of German citizens upset. Those people have taken to social media to voice their complaints. German politicians are concerned that the spreading of fake news related to the recent influx will sway voters in upcoming elections.
But is voicing an opinion about immigrants a criminal offense? That’s the question that a number of people are asking this morning. Maas told the press that he had attempted to negotiate with social media companies over the past few months, but that no solution had been devised. These new laws are harsh, indeed, but this seems to be the way that Germany will move forward with any social media violations.