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Germany to Start Fining Social Media Networks for Not Removing Hate Speech

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) arrives for the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting on April 5, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. High on the meeting's agenda was discussion of policies pertaining to improving legislation concerning social media. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) arrives for the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting on April 5, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. High on the meeting’s agenda was the discussion of policies pertaining to improving legislation concerning social media. (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

 

Germany’s cabinet approved a plan Wednesday to fine social media networks up to €50 million ($53 million) for failing to remove hate speech quickly.

The law, however, has been prompted concerns about its potential for limiting free speech.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter have 24 hours to remove posts with hate speech and a week for other offensive content, under the new law.

The country already has some of the strictest laws in the world regarding hate speech and defamation. Holocaust denial and inciting violence against minorities comes with a prison sentence. However, few online cases have been prosecuted, Reuters reports.

German politicians took notice of the growth of fake news and racism online, concerned the national elections in September would be swayed by sentiments fomented online.

Critics fear the new law will be used to suppress free speech in advance of the vote. An earlier draft of the law was amended to include a clause to exercise caution the fines didn’t undermine civil liberties.

Racism and hate speech are believed to be on the rise in Germany, two years after the country took in about million refugees, according to the BBC.

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