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

Get used to hearing once again: 'We were only following orders'

A finger pressing a delete key

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.

The law - Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, or Network Enforcement Act - gives the likes of Facebook and Twitter just 24 hours to remove or block criminal content from the point of being alerted to it.

There will be a slightly more lenient seven days for providers to respond to content that is less obviously criminal.

Providers must also publish a quarterly report on how they are handling complaints on their websites.

Failing to comply with the law could see companies fined up to €50m, while Reuters reports that the company's top representative in Germany could be fined up to €5m.

The move has invoked the ire of human rights and civil liberty groups, who say it will restrict freedom of speech if the companies start removing more content than is necessary in a bid to dodge the fine.

However, Germany's justice minister, Heiko Maas - who oversaw the law through the Bundestag - said that the real attack on freedom of expression were hate-speech posts.

He said that online hate crimes had risen by almost 300 per cent in the last two years, and that "no one should be above the law".

The new legislation would "end the internet law of the jungle", Maas said.

The law is due to come into effect in October. ®

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