2017 was a year that witnessed an aggressive campaign to put an end to hate speeches and extreme contents on social media. It marked a great success with Facebook and YouTube, making an announcement that the use of artificial intelligence was doing a good job in eradicating the menace which stood as a threat to many.
In line with this, Germany has effected a law enforcement policy that demands social media sites to pull down hate speeches, fake news, and illegal materials within 12 hours of them being uploaded.
All social media sites are expected to abide by the new law as a failure to remove illegal contents would attract fines of up to £50m.
The new German law classifies all social media sites with more than 2million members as subject to this law, making Facebook, Twitter and YouTube the main focus. Other sites, Reddit, Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr, and Russian Social network VK also fall within the category.
When it became increasingly popular to spread extreme contents via social media sites like Facebook and Youtube, these social media giants faced criticisms from the European Union and the UK government, asking them to act fast. They were further given an ultimatum until the end of 2017 to prepare for the arrival of NetzDG (the German law which would be a watchdog).
NetzDG was passed at the end of June 2017 at the time there was an increase in the spread of fake news and hate speeches on Facebook and Twitter. It finally came into force in October. The Ministry of Justice has made forms available on its sites for citizens to report any post that violates the law and is yet to be taken down.
Late last year, Facebook recorded a huge success in its use of artificial intelligence and manpower to pull down extreme content. However, it also revealed a number of difficulties in taking down all at once because of an emergence of new groups which use dissimilar phrases. Notably, the target is to have such contents removed within 2 hours of them being uploaded.
However, the NetzDG law has also faced criticisms in Germany with some protesters arguing that the law defeats the essence of freedom of speech.
In the UK, Amber Rudd has been an active critic of social media giants, calling them out to be more thorough in policing extreme contents.