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Germany threatens to penalise Facebook, Twitter for hate speech and fake news

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NEW DELHI: Germany has threatened to impose fines of up to €50 million (Euro Five crore) on social media networks including Facebook and Twitter if they fail to get their houses in order over the spread of hate speech online.

The proposals would see firms hit in their pockets for failing to remove blatantly illegal content such as hate speech and fake news within 24 hours, according to a report in ‘Guardian’ yesterday.

For other, lesser, law breaking content a more lenient deadline of seven days has been set.

A draft law is currently being formulated by the German Parliament prompted by exacerbated politicians concerned that American social media firms are not taking the problem seriously enough, although it is likely to be met with howls of anger from free speech activists.

Federal minister for justice and consumer protection Heiko Maas said, “Facebook and Twitter missed the chance to improve their takedown practices. For companies to take on their responsibility in question of deleting criminal content, we need legal regulations.”

Internet giants have long striven to paint themselves as conduits of information rather than publishers in their own right, a semantic quirk which enables them to shed much of the responsibility shouldered by traditional publishers.

The German government's move follows concerns raised by chancellor Angela Merkel that fake news and bots could influence upcoming elections.

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