Under the terms of a new German law, social networks like Facebook face fines of up to $57 million if they don’t delete illegal, racist or slanderous content within 24 hours. But free-speech advocates, including the Commission for Human Rights, say the law gives too much power to Facebook and other platforms to decide what constitutes hate speech.
“I am concerned with the lack of judicial oversight with respect to the responsibility placed upon private social networks to remove and delete content,” said David Kaye of the High Commission for Human Rights. “A prohibition on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous criteria, such as ‘insult’ or ‘defamation,’ is incompatible” with the International Covenant on Civil Rights.”
The European Digital Rights group, made up of civil and human rights organizations, also protested the new law, saying “there is no indication of how a decision is to be made on what ‘violating content’ might be.” The group added that it is “easy to see how the fear of high fines will bring platforms to delete and block any content that appears to generate a risk of being punished under this new law.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, said that the law is ostensibly aimed at combatting disinformation and hate speech, but the way it is going to be implemented “raises concerns about restrictions on free expression and the privatization of censorship.”