German Proposal Would Limit Social Media Debate
In response to the German cabinet approving a Social Network Enforcement Bill, which would give the government authority to levy substantial fines against social networking companies for failing to remove certain content from their platforms, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The legislation would give social networking companies strong motivation to censor first and ask questions later,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president at Freedom House. “While intended to tackle hate speech and fake news ahead of Germany’s federal elections, the draft law would limit online debate about contentious issues. The German government risks sending the wrong message to authoritarian leaders who are looking for justification to curtail legitimate speech under the guise of combating extremism, defamation, or false reporting.”
Social media companies could face fines of up to EUR 50 million for failing to remove hate speech, terrorist propaganda, disparagement of the state and its symbols, and other content deemed illegal from their platforms. The legislation would require sites to provide users with a means of filing complaints, and to quickly remove content, in a procedure that lacks judicial oversight.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.