The danger here is that the state will be able to effectively define what’s acceptable and unacceptable speech, and this while the government is under insufficient democratic control. Similar to most other countries, the German government is largely run by the capitalist class.
It’s this sort of repression that may express itself in all sorts of negative ways. The U.S., for all its problems, has strong freedom of speech laws that were won after centuries of struggle by working people and effective movements.
Social media companies face fines of up to €50m (£43m) if they persistently fail to remove illegal content from their sites under a new law passed in Germany
The German parliament on Friday approved the bill aimed at cracking down on hate speech, criminal material and fake news on social networks – but critics warn it could have drastic consequences for free speech online.
Germany has some of the world’s toughest laws covering defamation, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities.
The measure requires social media platforms to remove obviously illegal hate speech and other postings within 24 hours after receiving a notification or complaint, and to block other offensive content within seven days.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have become a battleground for angry debates about Germany’s recent influx of more than 1 million refugees.
The issue has taken on more urgency as German politicians worry that proliferating fake news and racist content, particularly about migrants, could sway public opinion in the run-up to a national election on 24 September.
Aside from the hefty fine for companies, the law also provides for fines of up to €5m for the person each company designates to deal with the complaints procedure if it doesn’t meet requirements.
Social networks also have to publish a report every six months detailing how many complaints they received and how they dealt with them.
Human rights experts and the companies affected say that the law risks privatising the process of censorship and could have a chilling effect on free speech. The government has softened the legislation by excluding email and messenger providers and opening up the option of creating joint monitoring facilities to make decisions about what content to remove.
It also made clear that a fine would not necessarily be imposed after just one infraction, but only after a company systematically refused to act or does not set up a proper complaint management system.