Germany Threatens Facebook With $53 Million Fine If It Doesn’t Remove Hate Speech

Open hand raised, Stop Hate Speech sign painted, multi purpose cMany Facebook users both in the United States and around the world have questioned the site’s content removal policy. When users flag offensive or sometimes even illegal content, Facebook often reacts slowly to take it down. But there’s a new proposed law in Germany that might serve as a template for other countries around the world.

The law aims to hold the social media giant responsible by levying a huge fine against Facebook if it doesn’t give users the option to report fake news or hate speech, or if it refuses to remove illegal content. If the law passes, it will carry the harshest penalties against Facebook in any country the site operates.

“There can be just as little space in the social networks as on the street for crimes and slander,” German Federal Justice and Consumer Protection Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. “The biggest problem is that the networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough.”

For its part, Facebook said it already has strong rules regarding hate speech — though it did promise to step up its staff in Germany.

“We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform,” Facebook said in a statement. “We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue. By the end of the year over 700 people will be working on content review for Facebook in Berlin.”

Take note, Facebook users in the U.S. and elsewhere: big fines and a little legal pressure go a long way toward getting Facebook’s attention on an issue.