Online hate speech has been a reality for a long time and with the prevalence and abundance of social media sites. Leading social media platforms have not done much to tackle the problem, however, Germany has decided to hold these companies accountable through legislation that enables authorities to slap hefty fines on social media companies that fail to remove such content.

A drastic step

Germany has always been tough on such online behavior, and according to the new legislation, social media websites operating in Germany will need to remove hateful content (including hate speech, racial abuse, etc.) within 24 hours of being flagged by a user.

The New York Times reported that according to the new law it is a crime to brandish a Nazi flag or deny the Holocaust in Germany so any social media content that includes Nazi flags or denial of the Holocaust must be removed within 24 hours without exception. If they fail to do so then they will be slapped with hefty fines that could go up to as much as $57 million. The minimum fine has been set at $5.7 million.

However, companies will be given a week to judge whether to delete content that they believe is not in clear violation of the new rules. Repeated delays in removing flagged content or failure to delete posts that are clearly in violation of the rules will attract heavy fines.

Freedom of speech concerns

This legislation has naturally been described as an attack on Freedom Of Speech by activists, who believe that the internet should be free from any kind of censorship. Moreover, the biggest companies believe that their hate speech policies are robust. The justice minister Heiko Maas, who was in charge of this legislation dismissed free speech concerns and stated that the legislation is aimed at ensuring that people behave the same way online as they are expected to in real life.

Maas went on to say that this legislation will also ensure that social media users in Germany are able to express their views freely without any fear of harassment. The Yew York Times cited him as saying, “With this law, we put an end to the verbal law of the jungle on the internet and protect the freedom of expression for all.

We are ensuring that everyone can express their opinion freely, without being insulted or threatened.” Germany is one of the biggest markets for leading social media companies and this legislation might eventually lead to the formulation of extremely proactive hate speech policies in the near future.