Germany fines Facebook €2M for violating hate speech law
The Federal Office for Justice (BfJ), a subdivision of the German justice ministry, announced that it had issued Facebook a fine of €2 million for failing to meet the requirements of Berlin’s Network Enforcement Act, a law against illegal content, in its transparency report for the first half of 2018.
The fine is a small amount compared with Facebook’s first-quarter revenues of more than $15 billion. But it has symbolic weight, marking the first time that a European country has sanctioned an American social media giant for failing to be transparent about the way it handles hate speech.
“In the penalty charge notice, the BfJ reprimands in particular that in the released report, the number of received complaints about unlawful content is incomplete,” the office said in its announcement, adding that this “is creating a distorted image in the public about the extent of unlawful content [on the platform] and the way the social network is dealing with it.”
Facebook can still lodge an appeal to the fine, the BfJ said.
Under the law, which is known as NetzDG and took effect on January 1, 2018, companies are required to publish a report twice a year in German regarding complaints they have received.
The law is considered the most far-reaching effort by a Western democracy to control what appears on social media, demanding that social media giants promptly remove potentially illegal material or face fines of up to €50 million.
“Digital platforms have a clear responsibility for the content that is posted on their sites. Germany’s new Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said in a written statement released shortly after the fine was announced. “What has to be clear is that Facebook’s so-called ‘community standards’ are not above German law” – Germany’s new Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said in a written statement released shortly after the fine was announced.