Facebook agrees to step up efforts against hate speech

Facebook has agreed to implement stronger measures against offensive content. [Mambembe/Flickr]

Social networks should consistently take action against hate speech, maintains Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Facebook has made a start and will apply German law in the future, not just its own guidelines

To this end, the social media giant has signed up to a task force against online xenophobia and racism, said Maas in Berlin on Tuesday (15 December). It was also agreed that illegal content would be removed within 24 hours.

The SPD politician also announced that the companies involved in the task force have agreed to the use of German language experts who can help deal with complaints. In addition to Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as other organisations like “Netz gegen Nazis” (Web against Nazis) and jugendschutz.net make up the group.

“I’m satisfied with the first-step, but not yet with the result,” said Maas. He also announced that an external provider would be entrusted with ensuring the agreed measures are implemented. “It’s about increasing pressure on the companies,” he added. At the same time, the justice minister highlighted that it is society-at-large’s problem.

>>Read: Maas: ‘Radicalisation took place under our very noses’

The debate about hate speech was kindled by dehumanising and right-wing extremist comments posted on the web about refugees. While Maas mentioned increasing cases of hate speech, Google and Facebook were quick to downplay the minister’s statement.

Arndt Haller, of Google, said that there has been “an increase”, but that it “hasn’t been significant”. Haller’s Facebook counterpart, Richard Allan, saw no increase to speak of. Allan refused to comment on specific measures, such as hiring new employees.

According to a survey carried out by Bitkom, every second internet user has read or encountered an example of racial slurs or threats of violence while using the web. As a result, one in nine users have said that they have been victims of such online abuse.

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