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Tick-tick... boom: Germany gives social media giants 24 hours to tear down hate speech

Dan 55 Silver badge

Re: Hoo-boy!

Actually, they have.

Volksverhetzung

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

online hate crimes

I'm curious: what constitutes an "online hate crime"?

It seems that would necessarily be limited to posting content to a web site?

chivo243 Silver badge
Facepalm

Pay in 24 hours

Or we start paying the lawyers while the possible fine is moved to a high interest account in some *friendly* country... offsetting the fine, and paying a portion of the retainer already written off...

Just a page out of Wall Street 101...

Jim-234

Politicians care more about speech they don't like than stopping terrorists.

After quite a number of countries have proven their utter inability to keep tabs on known radicals who are potential terrorists, claiming something about lack of resources or such, those same countries seem to have unlimited resources to hunt online for anyone who says anything that makes certain "protected classes" of people feel uncomfortable.

In Germany for example where in many cities women don't feel safe to be out alone at night, there are enough spare resources to go kicking in the doors of anyone posting about their dislike of a more recent religion to come out of the middle east. (but it's fine to rail against some other religions more common in Germany).

It seems what politicians really care about is making sure nobody says anything that the politicians deem is not the correct ideas. (Usually based on whatever small group whines the loudest).

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Politicians care more about speech they don't like than stopping terrorists.

Jim (and another gentleman below), the two actually go together. Terrorism could, somewhat cynically, be described as an exercise in marketing and communications. Its effectiveness depends not on the actual damage caused, but on people's belief in the possibility of damage occurring.

This is also what has enabled certain non-State actors in the Middle East to gain an undue amount of influence in Western policy and to become incredibly successful at recruiting, at minimal cost to themselves.

Do you recall any vehicle ramming attacks during The Troubles? No? Well, they did occur (e.g., to a former colleague of mine while serving in 14 Int). They just did not merit the publicity cost, which was much higher in those pre-WWW times.

In other words, controlling the flow of information is one aspect of what is popularly called "combating terrorism". The latter being of course a massive can of worms, but that's a different discussion.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Choices, choices

Which is better? An obscene, hate-filled rant on Facebook from someone who thinks they're doing harm or a rented van driven into a crowd of pedestrians by someone who no longer has an outlet online?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Choices, choices

Who no longer has an outlet online?

The El Reg Commentard Community welcomes refugees from anti-free-speech laws elsewhere. Well, erm, I'd like to think it does: many of us rightly call for freedom of speech and take issue with threats to it.

On a serious note, we in Blighty may have some serious idiots in government (including the prime minister and home secretary). But others seem genuinely to understand Freedom of Speech. Consider this article by Boris, and (if I may be so bold) my reaction to it (note the date: I was over-optimistic about the then-nearly-new government in my comment).

Queasy Rider

Re: Choices, choices

"Which is better? An obscene, hate-filled rant on Facebook from someone who thinks they're doing harm or a rented van driven into a crowd of pedestrians by someone who no longer has an outlet online?"

But he had an outlet online, and he still chose to drive that van into a crowd of pedestrians.

I love free speech, but along with increasing intolerance, we are seeing a rise in associated violence. When the so-called leader of the free world attacks a judge because of that judge's Mexican ancestry, tries to prevent Muslims from entering the country because of their religion rather than their actions, you can bet that there is a follow-on effect i.e. the haters come out of the woodwork, feeling justified in their multiple hatreds, itching to get at the objects of their blind hate. The more hate speech you allow, the deeper the hate becomes until it is no longer speech but hateful actions. People, did we learn nothing from Hitler and the Nazi party? We don't need a modern day Crusade. Don't get me wrong, I am not defending the Muslims. I want those hateful imams thrown in jail to rot, not expelled. They are the ones hurting us, inciting more hate. The programmer wanting to come from the middle east might also be, but this isn't Minority Report. Until they open their mouths espousing hatred, or are found to be associating with those that do, hold your horses. The 3 letter agencies know who they are. They better, with all their sneaky tricks up their sleeves. I am sick of seeing our freedoms snatched away from us one after another, but enough is enough when it comes to allowing hateful, inciteful speech.

Updraft102 Silver badge

Re: Choices, choices

"When the so-called leader of the free world attacks a judge because of that judge's Mexican ancestry, tries to prevent Muslims from entering the country because of their religion rather than their actions,"

The problem is that neither of those ever happened.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Choices, choices

> Consider this article by Boris

Consider the date of that article and the evolution of online communications since then.

Consider what the comment sections of "serious" media looked like and 2011 and what they look like now.

Consider this little conspiracy theory of mine, with absolutely no proof to back it up and no subject knowledge to argument it, but I do wonder what percentage of "user comments" in those media come from actual humans acting independently, as opposed to bots such as the ones you can hire to "like" your own Fartbook page, or that of your product, or the Amazon Turk reviewers writing extolling the virtues of your product, or writing scathing comments about your competitors. I think one possible indirect measure of that phenomenon, if it exists at all, could be to look at the level and quality of interaction between posters (someone writing a pertinent reply to someone else's comment).

Lastly, tangentially in support of the above, consider this rather amusing article from last year.

Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
Holmes

Re: Choices, choices

The problem is that neither of those ever happened.

Actually they DID happen... but there is always an angle outside of the progressive ergosphere, so let's have it:

The Donald & the la Raza Judge

Trump, Immigration and the Supreme Court

(Comments on that site are rather inflammatory and would definitely be squashed by Madame Merkel's Goodthink Control Squads, so beware)

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

The German parliament has today approved a law that would see social media titans fined up to €50m if they don't quickly remove hate speech from their sites.

Good. About time social media sites took some responsibility. But who decides just what is 'hate speech'?

uncommon_sense
Devil

> But who decides just what is 'hate speech'?<

Usually the ADL, through the lobbyists, down to the politicians...

Stuart Grout

Disconnect Germany?

Simple solution is to block Germany from access to Google and any non-German social media and let them set up and police their own system.

It seems to work well enough in North Korea and at least this way there is no risk of trying to censor the world to prevent Germans taking offence.

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: Disconnect Germany?

I think you are over-reacting. The new law will not enact new crimes. It merely tells the world that comments on social media which break existing laws must be acted on far more quickly than is currently the case. It will not tell Facebook what to do other than to act on reports in a timely manner.

The real downside is that Facebook and their employees or volunteers now have a fairly short window to make a judgement call on whether something is illegal or not and they will almost certainly err on the side of caution. But, if the law is enacted and FB follow it to the letter, they don't need to massively increase their bot/human armies to scan and censor everything over and above what they do now. What they have to do is assess and respond to reports of illegal content. The biggest change for FB is they now have to study and understand the law in the jurisdictions where they have an actual presence instead of assuming everything is under some version of US law.

Invidious Aardvark

Re: Disconnect Germany?

Whose existing laws should be enforced? Thailand lèse majesté laws? N. Korea's speech laws (whatever they may be)? If Germany gets to say "not these sorts of posts" then everyone else does too. The US version of free speech may allow for unpalatable things to be said but that's a much better system than anywhere else I can think of. Once you start censoring based on one country's laws, where do you stop?

What is illegal? Where does that line get drawn and by whom? Is a post by someone in the USA regarding the holocaust liable to be taken down by a German user's request? Whose laws apply to that post? The post is perfectly legal in the USA so why does German law apply?

The internet is harder to legislate for precisely because it doesn't respect the old territorial boundaries. Until every country gets together and sorts out an agreed framework on how laws should be applied to the WWW (fat chance) you're left with attempting to apply local laws to content from other countries, which is just never going to be practicable.

Then there's the problem of whether something is, actually, illegal. Ultimately the legality or otherwise of a post should be decided by a court of law, not by a social media company employee.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Auferstanden aus Ruinen

Right-wingers here say the law is being passed to suppress undesired voices before the impending vote. I consider myself a left-leaning liberal and I tend to agree. This law is blatantly unconstitutional and actively subverts the German rule of law, so it is only a matter of time until someone takes it to the Federal Constitutional Court which will then put an end to it in all likelihood. But that takes time and by the time something is done about it, the vote will be over and feckless Heiko and his ex-Stasi-advisers will have come up with even more madness.

Oh, did I mention our beloved leaders now also want to put trojans on our devices so they can avoid people using encryption? Only to catch the bad guys, of course.

This is all full-on GDR-style.

I am ashamed of what my country has become.

I am most upset about the harrowing indifference of my fellow countrymen.

I am deeply worried about what comes next.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

> This is all full-on GDR-style.

What is your age and what part of the country do you come from?

I assure you, my dear fellow, with the benefit of age and hindsight I, unlike my parents, am no longer ashamed of what Germany has become. I may not love it as such, and it has her warts and all, but I assure you that "your" country has made huge progress in this and the last part of the previous century.

You are quite welcome to disagree with whatever policies or political decisions are made, but your posting style does not exactly come through as that of the thoughtful and balanced person that you might well be.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

Yes, so much progress, one hardly knows where to begin.

Back to being a military power in countless conflicts, pushing for global „responsibility“

Openly supporting regime-change in several countries.

Enabling the US-drone war via Ramstein and denying it, killing thousands, breeding terrorism.

Pushing for deployment of our military within our own borders.

Partaking in the constant confrontation of Russia, risking every progress the fall of the wall brought to the people of all nations.

Supporting highly dubious NGOs, say in Syria, with millions of tax-€.

Pushing our agenda down Europe’s throat, not only turning Greece into a warning memorial to others but also turning the promise of a united Europe into a neoliberal race to the bottom nightmare.

Establishing what a less balanced person would likely call a Hartz4 slave-caste within one’s own population, serving as a disciplining bugbear to everyone.

Passing unconstitutional legislation left and right.

Pushing for a total surveillance-state with means the GDR could only dream of.

Employing Ex-Stasi advisors to crack down on „hatespeech“

Subverting the rule of law.

Eroding civil rights.

Of course, I am writing from the highly privileged position of a late seventies western kid not having endured living in the GDR. So I guess you are right and the comparison of present-day Germany with the GDR is inappropriate. After all, the GDR would never have had the means or the audacity to pursue any of this, would never have been able to achieve this much… progress.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

Also, assuming that you lived in the GDR, I would think you should see the writing on the wall very clearly. How are you not worried?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

>"your" country has made huge progress in this and the last part of the previous century.<

Being a Zionist vassal-state?

Having essentially abolished free speech to keep it in chains?

Having diluted its culture to make the white man a slave to globalisation?

Which bit is the improvement, exactly?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

> the thoughtful and balanced person that you might well be.

Or not! :-)

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

I think the idea is rather to make *every man* a slave to globalisation, irrespective of pigmentation.

I also think I have an idea about what AC No. 2 means by "improvements" but I am out of time for today.

Please keep it civil.

Thank you

AC No. 1

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

It appears to me at least that many people have lost sight of the fact that freedom of speech is one of a number of fundamental rights, each of which has the same or at the very least a comparable status and priority. In the EU in general, and Germany in particular it is often necessary to BALANCE these rights against each other in cases where equally relevant rights are actually in conflict with one another. In the US this balance does not appear to enter into the political and social arena. The simplest example is that the freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but the right to privacy is not. In the EU however privacy is a constitutional right, which means that the right of free speech does NOT TRUMP the right to privacy, so you cannot legally violate a person's right to privacy on the basis of your right to freedom of speech. In the end the final instance is the constitutional court, and quite frankly the German Bundesverfassungsgericht has a pretty good record in protecting fundamental rights in that country.

In this particular argument however the simple point is that the law now makes it clear that the same laws that have applied to print and broadcast media in Germany for decades, ALSO apply to social media and that the time is coming to an end where FB and others (twitter ??) can ignore these laws with impunity. The new law now brings accountability and liability to focus on FB which has so far delighted in obstructing the process of law in the most reprehensible manner ... by simply making it impossible to enforce and allowing even the most evident violations of laws against incitement to violence, among others, to hide behind a smoke-and-mirrors screen.

I myself have no sympathy for those who wish to hide behind a veil of anonymity while inciting violence and hatred against minority groups and individuals. Make no mistake, the offences that are being protected in the social media would lead to quick prosecution if the same comments and hate-speech was published in printed media. Why should FB be protected against this any more than any of the printed media ?

As I said in the introduction, it's about balancing fundamental rights and finding a socially acceptable final outcome ... a matter for the judiciary which in my view is alive and healthy in Germany even though it is not perfect by any means. Our US readers could do worse than understand and acknowledge that EU and German law and their respective constitutions DIFFER with respect to which rights are enshrined and protected by the constitution and the courts. In Germany there are good historical reasons that this is so and in my personal view that is a good thing.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Lets not fuck about.....

Ultimately, people had no place to vent all the negative feelings that we all experience. The internet has now become that place.

Consider the poor police. Our workload has significantly increased since people now phone us:

"Someone on Facebook called me a cunt."

Yes, it's a crime under the Communications Act, but.... fuck.... grow a pair?

Nothing will ever beat:

"Someone's posted this picture of my girlfriend on to my Facebook feed."

I brace myself for a nude or something...turns out one of his friends rather skillfully edited a nice profile picture of this guys girl, and replaced her face with a vagina. Several seconds of silence, but internally me going "DO NOT FUCKING LAUGH"..... before I manage to strangle out.. "that's...different.."

Brilliant.

TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
WTF?

Someone on Facebook called me a cunt?

A crime?

Seriously?

Obviously not if it was face to face, but still......

Any successful prosecutions?

sixit
Facepalm

Hitler did something similar back in the day

Tsk, tsk, Germany, your fascist roots are showing. It's irony that your hate-speech law can be itself considered hate-speech by some. Frankly, though, no one should have the right to make such a law.

Are you ready to be plunged into the black forest of the social media void your country will endure if the big social media companies simply decide Germany isn't worth allowing to be on their service? You, Germany, are looking at the equivalent of a Soviet-era Berlin firewall around your capital, should Twitter and Facebook choose to put something up between you and them for their safety. Stand down before the world yet again shows your ass to the floor by putting you back into the dark ages that was pre-internet connectivity.

Kym Farnik

And who defines what is hate speech?

At least the USA has free speech. Just because you don't like what is being said does not mean it is not free.

Facts trump feelings. German Govt = #antifa

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