Opposition parties in Germany are clamouring for the abolition of new hate speech law that proposes that social media firms who fail to take down hate speeches should be fined. They argue that such a law is unlawful and defeats the freedom of speech. In simpler terms, they ae advocating that private companies do not have the sole right to determine which posts to be updated.
The NetzDG law came into force on January 1, taking cognizance of social media firms with more 2 million subscribers and imposed fines of up to £50m on social networking sites that fail to abide by the law to pull down extreme contents. In view of this, however, it translates that there would be a significant increase in the removal of contents on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Following the imposition of the new law, a series of anti-Islam and anti-migrant tweets have been removed on Twitter, as well as the satirical comments made by Titanic’s accounts after it made a caricature of the anti-Islam posts.
The General Secretary of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) expressed her concerns about the law to Sonntag newspaper. According to him, it’s unlawful for the operators of the platform to be saddled with the decision pertaining the legality of posts or comments. She said:
“The past few days have clearly shown that private providers aren’t always able to make the right decision about whether suspected criminal statements made online are unlawful, satirical or a tasteless expression of opinion that nonetheless needs to be tolerated in a democracy.”
Another member of an opposition party, Simone Peter, leader of the Greens, condemned the new law and said that giving social network operators the responsibility to influence freedom of speech and the press in Germany is unlawful, with a reference to the suspension of Titanic’s account. According to her, this action is a clear indicator that the social media operators have the responsibility to judge a post or a comment.
What these opposition parties are clamouring for is that the law is made flexible or replaced with a “proper” one as Beer suggests. Nevertheless, it is tough to unanimously agree on what a post is directly saying if it is clouded with satire or parody. While some may take it to have a literal meaning, others would agree that a deeper meaning is attached.
Whatever the case, social media operators, especially Twitter and Facebook are obviously caught up between the new hate speech law and the dictates of the opposition parties. In other words, they have a choice to either pay the huge fine should they fail to take down such posts or be cheered by the opposition parties.
Parliamentary leader of the radical Left, Sahra Wagenknecht, another opposition party leader said that the new law should be abolished. “The law is a slap in the face for all democratic principles because, in a constitutional state, courts rather than companies make decisions about what is lawful and is not”, she said.
This is definitely a tough one for the operators.