New German law will censor social media?

Based on Network Enforcement Act (NEA)binding in Germany as of 1 January 2018, large Internet platforms operating in Germany are required to introduce procedures to receive and review complaints of potentially illegal content. It also requires these companies (incl. social media) to remove potentially illegal content within 24 hours.

Illegal content to be quickly removed

The controversial law enforces Internetcompanies with more than 2 million users registered in Germany to establish procedures to receive and review complaints on potentially illegal content published online at these platforms. Scope of “potentially illegal content” is relatively broad and ranges from insultations of the public office to threats of violence.

Also, operators of sites have only 24 hours to remove from their websites the content found to be illegal. In case when determination whether the content is actually illegal is more complicated a seven day deadline was introduced.

In case a company fails to remove the illegal content on time, the German Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection may impose fines up to EUR 50 million.

Social media fail to stop “hate speech”

According to the German government’s report [quoted after], the new law results from the fact that the most popular social media fail to react on time for the hate speech published by their users. According to the report – Facebook removed only 39% and Twitter only about 1% of the illegal content within 24 hours after publication.

On the other hand some experts – including the Human Rights Watch – claim that new law may reduce the freedom of speech in Germany.