BY VIRGINIA HALE
Facebook revealed that within the last month it deleted 100,000 posts by German users for containing “hate”, but Justice Minister Heiko Maas has blasted the figure as too low.
At a conference in Berlin, Maas said that to be accountable, social networks must publish the number of posts contested by users. The Justice Minister’s remarks implied that complainants on social media are valid judges of what constitutes criminal speech, something usually only determined by a court.
The number of deleted posts “with hate comments” was revealed this week by Facebook’s European policy director, Richard Allan. Maas criticised Facebook’s decision not to specify the number of comments users contested in the period and said that its response to complaints should be consistent across the board.
“We should consider whether to make social networks commit to disclose how many complaints for illegal hate comments they got and how they handled them,” the Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician argued.
Maas said that “too little” punishable content on the internet is being deleted and that posts are deleted too slowly.
Asserting that the biggest problem is that complaints from users are not taken seriously, he said: “Of the criminal content reported by users, Twitter deleted just one per cent, YouTube only ten, and Facebook 46 per cent. This is too little.”
In Germany’s fight against “hate speech” on the internet, a task force of several Internet companies including Facebook agreed to delete posts which are punishable under German law within 24 hours.
Jugenschutz.net, an organisation whose stated aim is to make the internet safer for children, assessed Facebook and Youtube’s performance in deleting the criminal content they reported.
YouTube removed 96 per cent of posts flagged by the organisation and 84 per cent of Facebook posts. “With both websites, half were deleted within 24 hours. This is much faster than in the spring,” Maas said.
Describing the situation as “improved, but far from good”, Maas said that the websites must be more consistent in their approach and so every complaint should be treated as equal to those put forward by jugenschutz.net.
The Justice Minister’s speech did not take into account the fact that the nonprofit may be less likely to make vexatious complaints than millions of social media users.
Since Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than 1.6 million migrants into Germany, the government has taken an incredibly hard line on free speech on the internet. Police have conducted raids on the homes of people suspected to have made posts critical of migrants.
With the government piling ever more pressure on social media companies to monitor and police comments at regular intervals, many Germans unhappy with Merkel’s policies and the subsequent wave of crime perpetrated by the newcomers have fled to Facebook’s Russian competitor, VK.