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11/12/2016

Investigation launched against Facebook over hate speech

Justice & Home Affairs

Investigation launched against Facebook over hate speech

Facebook has been strongly criticised for not deleting racist and xenophobic content. [Samuel Morgan/EurActiv]

Hamburg’s public prosecutor is examining a complaint against Facebook’s senior managers over alleged incitement. EurActiv Germany reports.

On Monday (19 October), a spokesperson for the authority said a routine investigation had been launched after the complaint was received on 5 October. “We are still in the process of reviewing all the facts.”

Der Spiegel reported that a lawyer from Würzburg, Chan-Jo Jun, had filed the complaint, in which he levies accusations at three senior national and international Facebook managers. They are accused of not immediately deleting hate messages posted on the social media site.

>>Read: Social networks again told to crack down on hate speech

The lawyer, who specialises in IT and internet law, said that “Facebook always tries to claim that nothing can be done. There are other cases that show that Facebook can delete content when it wants to.”

Last month, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that measures would be taken to combat hate speech on the site. “I think that we need to work on it,” Zuckerberg told Merkel at a global summit in New York. When the Chancellor asked him if he intended to improve the situation, he responded with “Yes.”

Facebook has pledged to counter xenophobic and racist content through a “counter speech” campaign. The company believes that a crucial part of the fight against hate speech is for other Facebook users to oppose proponents of racism with facts and reasoned replies.

>>Read: Migrants use Facebook, messaging apps to liaise with smugglers

In mid-September, Germany’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, met with Facebook representatives in Berlin. Maas had personally invited the social media giant to the sit-down, after inhumane and radical comments regarding refugees had been posted on the site.

Merkel has called upon Facebook to take serious action against hate speech, while Maas has previously voiced his annoyance at the fact that Facebook seems to take a harder line against revealing content such as nude photos, which are deleted almost immediately, than against racist and xenophobic content.