Germany Cracks Down on Free Speech

By James Sweet III | GERMANY

In Germany, hate speech, fake news, and illegal material must now be removed by social media sites within 24 hours of being reported. Passed in June, the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz law gave social media outlets until the end of 2017 to prepare for the enforcement of the new laws.

Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube were the main targets of the law, but any social media outlet with more than 2 million users will also be affected, potentially targeting sites like Reddit. If the reported material is not removed within 24 hours, the site with the “obviously illegal” content could face a fine of up to 50 million Euros.

In the situation of a more complex case, outlets could have a week to remove the content. Regardless, this is a scary step towards censorship by the German government. Because it is subjective to say that something is hateful, the German government can cherry pick on what they like and don’t like, stating it is hateful. The same logic applies to say that something is fake, although there can be more of an objective truth behind calling something fake. With news, however, it can be noted that some news is labeled as fake merely because a group of individuals disagree with it.

Free speech is not guaranteed on social media, due to the fact that it is a private corporation and there is a set of terms you must agree to. However, with the German government intervening with the way the corporations deal with content, it no longer matters what the site’s terms state about the now illegal content. Is this the beginning of censorship of unpopular opinions, or merely the government doing something to protect the people?