Should social media sites be liable for their users’ content? Germany has passed a new law forcing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites to remove hate speech, defamatory fake news, and other “illegal content” within 24 hours or face fines of up to 50 million euros.

Critics of the legislation, which is one of the toughest of its kind in a democracy, worry that the tight deadline will lead to accidental censorship as companies choose to delete questionable content rather than risk a fine. Supporters, however, point out that the law merely asks that existing rules governing free speech in Germany are also enforced online.

Many countries have been experiencing a rise in “fake news”, internet harassment, and online radicalisation. Yet free speech advocates argue that the behaviour of an ugly minority should not be used as an excuse to restrict the freedoms of everybody. Could more countries start looking to Germany’s example, or is this a step backwards for civil liberties?

Should websites be fined if they fail to remove hate speech? Should social media sites be liable for their users’ content? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Jason Howie

92 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Αναγέννηση

    What defines Hate Speech ? Telling the Truth could be considered Hate Speech by an opposing side.,For example the Turks view Hate Speech anyone that criticizes the British State sponsored Turkish Military invasion and occupation of EU member Cyprus since 1974 which provides the British Military bases in Cyprus a security advantage against American efforts since 1950, so as to be replaced with establishment of American military bases in Cyprus , which has resulted during the ascension of Cyprus into the EU on May 1 2004 , the American military invasion of Iraq and overthrow of the Saddam Hussein Baathist regime with the subsequent decade long American military occupation of Iraq .

    • Rodrigo Salgado de Oliveira

      It depends on whether you blame the polish and others for the failure of your own state. Taking by your profile picture, I’d say it does.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Rodrigo Salgado de Oliveira

      The Schengen area & the Euro were political constructs created to take power away from the Nation States that make up the EU & centralise it in an unelected European Politburo in Brussels, so who would you blame if not the architects of the disaster that as befallen the peoples of the EU, Little green men from Mars perhaps ?

    • Pedro Castro

      Ivan Burrows perhaps those who kept signing the deals… Your own politicians. You know, no one forced anyone in the EU, some others such as norway chose not to sign up on everything!

      Choices, you know?

    • Pedro Castro

      Ivan Burrows i’m gonna call bullshit. Some PM you voted on signed the Lisbon treaty!

  2. Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

    Censorship is a bad idea a very bad idea, it’s opens the road for other bad things to happen like authoritative forms of government or even dictatorships. .
    Ideas must be fought only with other ideas even if they are bad or ” dangerous ” no matter matter what freedom of speech is the basis of a real democracy

  3. EU Reform- Proactive

    …… ……& you forgot to mention: who is the judge or judges?

  4. Paul X

    These companies will not have the resources to examine every individual complaint and will likely delete anything that has been highlighted rather than take the risk of a fine…. and considering how much this world has descended into PC madness where people actively look for things that they claim “offends” them, you will find this is the beginning of the end of free speech online.

    I guarantee you will not even to be allowed to post a picture of a pork pie because it will “offend ” certain (highly strung) members of society

    • Pedro Castro

      More than anywhere else in the world!

    • Vytautas Vėžys

      Pedro Castro In China you can have swastika on Stalins face with slogan”Kill the Jews” under it…
      I guess they have less democracy and freedoms than others…

    • Ivan Burrows

      Pedro Castro

      More than Australia ?, more and Canada ?, more than New Zealand ?, more than the USA ?, more than Great Britain ?, more than any English speaking Nation ?

      Nazism, fascism, communism and now Euroepanism, only the colour of your flag changes.

    • Rodrigo Salgado de Oliveira

      Yes Ivan more than in any of the places you mentioned, with the exception of Canada which has an European social model.

      Especially more than in the US or GB.

    • Pedro Castro

      Ivan Burrows yes, more than any of those places, some far more!

      Wasn’t US democracy just downgraded to flawed democracy like a couple months ago?

  5. Thomas Beavitt

    First define “hate speech”. Then decide whether to ban it. Ask me again in 100 years time!

  6. Tom Kuilder

    Germany is rapidly deteriorating from a human rights perspective. They will soon reach third reich levels of censorship.

  7. Paweł Kunio

    Nope. Things like hate-speech should get negotiated out and lose in face of antithesis. Spreading fakes (especially inter-state ones and/or political ones) though could be target of legal actions.

    • Yavor Hadzhiev

      I agree. I think that rather than systematic control, that many may see and feel as censorship, there should be criminal investigation into individual really serious hate speech and fake news cases.

  8. Alexandru Anichiti

    No, censorship does not work. Communists used to do it and nobody can say they had a good human rights record.

  9. Pedro Castro

    Hate speech is not included within the parameters of free speech. It never was but since the media was reasonably by the work of editors it ended up being confined indoors. With social media that doesn’t happen anymore so new methods are used. The laws are the same as before but it’s being applied where as before it wasn’t becouse it wasn’t realy needed.

    You can still badmouth your government and all the other stuff you used to. You just can’t incite violence towards your pet hatred puting inocent people at risk.

    I don’t see much danger within our societies.

    • Peter van Wijmeren

      Hate is relative and subjected to one’s personal opinion. The whole idea of free speech is to be able to say things people don’t want to hear. Progressing as a society is all about debating each other, even in extreme forms of language. It is not up to anyone or any form of ‘authority’ to take away someone’s voice. If you truly believe that someone’s ability to speak should be taken away then you are an extremely dangerous person to be around. Taking away this natural right is what caused the murder of millions of people in the past.

    • Pedro Castro

      Peter van Wijmeren unchecked hate speech is what killed millions of people in the past and no, hate speech is not “relative” or “subjective” to personal opinion. It’s a defined crime within most western democracies. It’s even covered in most constitutions by “people can’t be discriminated by colour, sexual orientation, religion, etc, etc in whatever variation suits your specific constitution.

      Free speech does not cover all speech. Never has and most likely never will, you just got that ilusion from decades where it didn’t matter!

    • Marius Popescu

      Are you related with Fidel ? Because I’m tired of this kind of comunist “freedom of speech ” “You free to say anything as long we agrre with you “

    • Pedro Castro

      Marius Popescu sorry, you can say what you like as long as courts agree it’s within the parameters of the constitutional individual rights.

      Hate speech is not included! Blame whoever you want but respect the law!

    • Irvin Lepic

      Wow, it took literally 1 comment for you to mention Hitler. It must be a record.
      The line is not between hate Vs free speech, it is in actively inciting violence or not.
      I am free to say that I hate someone, I’m not free to punch them in the face or tell someone else to do that. This has been the case since we got a modern liberal constitution, back in the early 19th century

    • Yavor Hadzhiev

      Thanks Pedro. What you say makes sense to me.

  10. Pedro Castro

    Hate speech is not included within the parameters of free speech. It never was but since the media was reasonably controled by the work of editors it ended up being confined indoors. With social media that doesn’t happen anymore so new methods are used. The laws are the same as before but it’s being applied where as before it wasn’t becouse it wasn’t realy needed.

    You can still badmouth your government and all the other stuff you used to. You just can’t incite violence towards your pet hatred puting inocent people at risk.

    I don’t see much danger within our societies.

  11. Joao Antonio Camoes

    Who’s going to define with precision and consense the concept of ? How can we be sure that we are permitting the reentrance o censorship in Europe, eliminating of the basic principles of our democracy i.e. freedom of speech?

    • Rodrigo Salgado de Oliveira

      Both International and most national juridical systems contemplate the figure of hate speech. It’s already there.

    • Kester Ratcliff

      It is already precisely defined in existing legislation. The problem is governments choose not to enforce the law consistently because it would affect their media patrons.

    • Carmelita Caruana

      Lawyers will define of course. It is not impossible to define hate speech.

    • Lynne Warner

      Depending upon the neutrality of the law makers. There is none right now.

    • Paul X

      No, I quite regularly come on here and say what a useless bunch of incompetent, self important, profligate imbeciles the EU politicians are…..that is simply stating a fact… not a hate speech

  12. Faddi Zsolt

    Nowadays hate speech is in connection with the migrant crisis, which causer was the West, and among others largely the USA. If they provoke the european citizens with this artificial crisis, don’t be surprised about the hate speech!

    • Paul X

      Wrong, taxpayers are perfectly entitled to an opinion on whether they agree with accepting thousands of migrants into their country, after all, it is their money that will be used to support them. Disagreeing with the naive liberal left policies the EU promotes is not Hate, neither is it racism, xenophobia or any other derogatory label people use to try and bully others into accepting a liberal agenda

  13. Eugene Ioannis Yiaoupllari

    What websites should do is finally get rid of the bots and trolls from they comment section, all they do is say half the truth or even distort it to incite anger. Who would have ever thought that the comment section would shape opinions worldwide. But here we are with uneducated debating only click-bate titles without even bothering to read the article and hords of trolls spouting they’re willful (or payed) ignorance.

    • Eugene Ioannis Yiaoupllari

      Get rid of bots and trolls with fake profiles. It’s like the first thing I said :p. Also (since u asked :p) rules need to be set for articles and magazines. They need to add citations when they claim things to be true. Also we the readers must be educated on how to recognize facts from alternative facts and (for example) if their citation is non existent or from a unreliable source we need to reject them. We need to start thinking critically. :)

  14. Kester Ratcliff

    The company Directors should be prosecuted if they do not make every reasonable effort to avoid broadcasting it, and they should be jailed and banned from holding the directorship of any media company again. This is already the law, but it’s not applied consistently, because those it would affect are rich and powerful.

  15. Rajmund Klonowski

    Absolutely not. Forcing media to enforce censorship would not only hurt the freedom of speech, but would also cement the media market — as only the big and powerful ones would be able to afford the censoring mechanisms. So that would effectively kill off small and independent media which do not belong to multi-million corporations.

  16. Jean Charles Branco

    websites that promote EU shuld be removed. EU is a Crime against europeans and all humanity. END EU NOW !! support ur local nacionalist party

  17. Jean Charles Branco

    the truth is hate, for the ones that hate the truth. the dictature of bruxells will continue to promote the ideologie of hate toward the europeans and europeans values. support ur local nacionalist party for a new golden dawn in europe.

    • Pedro Castro

      You obviously know nothing about european values and election results proved it again and again…

    • Pedro Castro

      Jean Charles Branco like i said… No idea whatsoever!

    • Jean Charles Branco

      esquerdalhos nunca tem qlq ideia. por isso sao “idiotas uteis”

  18. John Marcogliese

    Depends on how you define hate. If you oppose an idea vigorously with ideas and arguments and no ad hominem it is not hate. One can criticise even scriptures of any religion. One is not responsible for hateful responses for one’s arguments.

  19. Mihail Tanasescu


  20. Andrew Potts

    Hate Speech is code for telling the truth about The EUs migration policies and the replacement of indigenous people of European countries.

  21. Vitaliy Markov

    What is hate speech, first of all? Calls for any kind of violence, or genocide denial, absolutely. Spreading lies to stigmatize a population, yes. But expressions criticizing a certain group shouldn’t be censored.

  22. Georg Blaha

    Yes, they should. The definition of hate speech can be an adaptation of laws already in vigor tackling discrimination, threats against personal safety and dignity.

  23. Maricela Potoc

    They should be fined if they don’t implement a reporting system and immediately take action after getting justified complaints from other users. Google lost many of its Google+ users because they failed to remove the spam and the offensive comments. Even though you can block users on Google+ and Facebook too, the comments are still there for everyone to see even though you don’t see them anymore. They should hire people if their AI is not yet capable to handle these bad comments.

  24. Viorika Motoi

    The people no need to incrase the hate at make it a violence act so we need a etical code!

  25. catherine benning

    Who determines hate speech? What is hate speech? How can freedom of speech or expression be classified as hate speech? To do so is absurd, as, it defies logic. If a person does not like or agree with a particular political whim or policy or persons view, to say so and loudly is not only a right they have to do so, it is their duty to do so. How will muted citizens be able to convey their wishes to those they have chosen to carry out leadership roles. What are you thinking?

    Immigration on the scale we have in Europe is a the policy of nut jobs. Millions of human beings who have little or no knowledge of Western society or the objectives or needs of that society will fulfil no purpose other than to bankrupt the nations within union. To do this ad hoc and without permission from those who pay for it is a fraudulent use of our money. Return these people invited in by your uncontrollable politicians and force them to have a referendum on any more entering via any State. And until that referendum takes place in every one of the EU States, stop these people from entering by sending them back from whence they came or refuse them entry.

    It is your duty to follow the will of the people who support you. Not to pander to international vagrants who want an easy ride in life rather than work to fix the mess they created in their country of origin.

    • EU Reform- Proactive

      Hi Catherine, we all know at heart- hate speech differs from free speech- but some try to push it!

      Electronic “moderation” or moderators can easily control & fix their own websites to become accountable & compliant- refer to the DE’s moderation!
      Another angle- lets look at an “info graph”- showing the global spread of press freedom:

      Absentees of press freedom in the charts are the many Muslim countries who so vigorously lament about Europe’s infidel “unlimited” & guaranteed press freedom. A thorn in their flesh? Many feel justifiably victimized and not protected under their “CDHRI” here in Europe and are obviously dissatisfied being under the protection of the infidels applicable ECHR.

      Doesn’t one expect that the EU or CoE or,or, or- rejects the CDHRI, not allow a duel society,but to clamp down and implement our ECHR law rigorously, universally and fairly on all who wish to call Europe their home?

  26. EU Reform- Proactive

    Besides the latest German attempt to sooth their damaged souls by creating more pc laws (NetzDG)- there exists in abundance & confusingly:

    * from the Council of Europe (CoE): the “European Convention on Human Rights” plus the “European Commission against Racism and Intolerance”,

    * the UN sponsored: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)”, the “International Covenant on Civil & Political Right” and the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)”.

    * copies & proudly EU: the “European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)”, the “European Commission against Racism and Intolerance”, the “EU code of conduct on hate speech”:

    * Than there is a: “European Court of Justice”, a “European Court of Human Rights” plus all national courts, laws, codes & articles etc.

    Please, what more does the non Muslim world need to be loved?

    What in turn does the “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam” (CDHRI) or “Human Rights in Islam” offer to the rest of the world?

    Please analyze any shortcomings- contraventions, contradictions, none compliance’s or enhancements in comparison to the UDHR and ECHR.

    Could the EU & UN be seen as a willing or confused Agent for the opposing CDHRI agenda?

    In response “Facebook” said- quote: “…… it had hired an extra 3,000 staff (on top of the 4,500 it already has) to help monitor “the millions of reports” that come through every week”. Great job!

    Typically, another (unproductive) way to create jobs in the EU to “pleeeaaaase” & produce more legal papers, hot air- but “bugger all” to sell!

    • catherine benning

      @ EU Reform- Proactive

      I don’t compute the PC line called hate speech. Speech cannot be considered hate filled on any level, simply because it is an expression of thought. It can be rude, offensive and certainly an avenue to express the act of intense dislike of any and all things, but it cannot be classed as hate ‘crime.’

      Who decides on what is hateful thought? And is thought now to be considered a crime if it is expressed in writing? Define hate speech.

      Lets take this little link idea and the rampant ‘thoughts’ behind it. Is the thought and the expression of the idea a hate crime? Or is the practice of the direction the reader takes, the crime? To think is what we all do. How would it feel to be robbing a bank? Until the act of bank robbery is carried out, it is purely thought. If that thought is passed on to another, it remains a thought and not an act. And what if a person intensely dislikes another group of people because, to the thinker they are people of nasty character, not fit to be in the company of those who feel and think alternately, who is to say that is a crime. Unless and until that person attempts to cause harm to the group that is disliked. A bit like Bush and Blair’s crime against the Iraqi people. And Cameron with the Libyans. Not to mention those who bought the murder idea hook line and sinker in order for it to be passed into action via Parliaments.

      If this is a crime against the European people, who committed it? Are those criminals who carry out this horrific attempt at genocide culpable? And if so, when will they be charged with the human holocaust they have created.

      Apparently you can win a prize for this kind of ‘thought’ process. Some should be careful what they wish for as it can land them in jail.

      As the saying goes, the buck stops here.


    • EU Reform- Proactive

      Catherine, thank you for the effort & links. No need to convert or convince me- hopefully my balanced comments- not silent thoughts- “speak” clear enough. It is the masses of “useful idiots” (no “hate speech”) to be woken up- softly, softly!

    • EU Reform- Proactive

      Catherine, maybe a useful link to show (you) how easy it is nowadays to engage a professional lair, propagandist and PhD spin doctor- should you have enough money and lots to hide! And- he prostitutes his trade not far from you!

  27. jakov

    Politicians invented hate speech just to oppress freedom of expression

  28. SD

    A private should never get the right to censor another private person, company etc. except with a court order or some other legal order. Nobody has the right to put their hand in my mouth!

  29. hi there

    no way , there is no free speech when there is a distinction of what someone says .
    people have feelings, people are wrong (most of the times in complex matters ) so there is no way to have a healthy society if we dont have the ability to receive the feedback that any personality can provide by his own act from his point of view .i think europe had a big share of dark ages in the past , i dont want to be part of a new dark era . or i dont want to be the part that compromises with a plan of a dark future .

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