14/03/2017 14:44 GMT | Updated 14/03/2017 15:36 GMT

German Government Proposes £44m Fines For Social Media Companies Over Illegal Content

The plans are unprecedented.

The German government has proposed strict measures to crack down on illegal content, such as defamatory fake news and hate speech, on social media sites. 

Under the plans, Facebook, Twitter and other networks would face fines of up to 50 million euros (£44m) if they fail to swiftly remove posts that break the law.

Heiko Mass, the justice minister, said new research showed that social media companies’ efforts to remove illegal content were inadequate.

“Too little criminal content is being deleted, and it’s not being deleted sufficiently quickly,” Mass told journalists, the FT reported.

“The biggest problem is that the networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough.”


Mass said research from Jugendschutz, a youth protection watchdog, revealed that Twitter deletes just 1 per cent of illegal content flagged by users and Facebook 39 per cent.

Fake news could see sites fall foul of the proposed rules if the content constitutes slander, defamation or libel, Mass said. 

The measures, which will be put to the German parliament in a bill, would force companies to remove illegal content within seven days of it being flagged.

They would also be required to run 24-7 services for users to be able to flag content and to appoint a person responsible for handling complaints.

The individual could personally be fined up to €5m (£4.4m) if the company doesn’t meet the standards.

The Associated Press reported that Facebook and Twitter declined to comment on the proposals. Facebook reportedly said its own research showed it had higher rates of removal. 

Twitter said it had recently taken steps to prevent abuse and help users filter unwanted content, while Facebook said it would have 700 staff reviewing flagged content in Berlin by the end of the year, the news wire reported.