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German police raided 36 homes over social media hate speech

The country is considering a law that would fine social networks for failure to remove hate speech.
Swapna Krishna, @skrishna
June 22, 2017
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Fabian Bimmer / Reuters

Late last year, Germany proposed a bill that would fine social media providers, such as Facebook and Twitter, for failure to remove hate speech within 24 hours on their respective platforms. Now, Germany has raided the homes of 36 people accused of posting hate speech or other illegal content.

German law prohibits hate speech; according to The New York Times, citizens can be imprisoned for inciting racial hatred for up to five years. This campaign was primarily targeted at right-wing hate speech, but also included those who had posted hateful left-wing content and harassment based on sexual orientation.

Social media platforms oppose Germany's proposed law; they worry it may encourage their moderators to remove content that is not strictly illegal in order to avoid the hefty maximum of a $53 million fine. German law experts also question the law's constitutionality, as it violates some basic tenets of citizens' right to free speech.

It will be interesting to see what happens as this law develops in Germany. It's clear that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have a serious problem with hate speech and fake news. What they can (and should) do about it is a much more difficult question with no easy answers.

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