Germany kicked off 2018 with a strict law against online hate speech. The law allows for fines against tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, of up to $58 million (£44 million, AU$79 million) if they don’t remove offending posts within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. The law is also known as NetzDG.
The social network said 1,704 pieces of content were reported from January to June, and roughly 21 percent resulted in content removal. Facebook has teams of specialists and lawyers that handle the NetzDG complaints.
“Hate speech is not allowed on Facebook,” Richard Allan, vice president of global policy solutions at the social network, wrote in a German-language blog post published and translated Friday. “This is reflected in our community standards and we remove relevant content when we become aware of it.”
Facebook said its current community standards vet content as rigorously as NetzDG.
“Worldwide, we removed approximately 2.5 million pieces of content in the first quarter of 2018 that violated our policies,” wrote Allan. “We are convinced that the vast majority of content that is considered hate speech in Germany would be removed if checked for a violation of our community standards.”
Facebook has been under fire for how it deals with hate speech, fake news, conspiracy theories and hoaxes on its site. Last week, the tech giant tried to explain its stance on such material, arguing that fake news should be demoted in results rather than banned. The company said the policy defends free speech.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s own comments on Holocaust deniers faced criticism in Germany, according to Reuters. He said during an interview last week that posts by Holocaust deniers shouldn’t be removed from Facebook because “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
In Germany, denying the Holocaust is a crime.
Zuckerberg later clarified his statement. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he said. “Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services.”
Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.