Why the so called "Facebook law" is the wrong tool against hate speech

by ECPMF staff

This summer, the German parliament is deciding on nothing less but freedom of expression on the web.

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With the so called "Facebook law" – the Social Network Enforcement Bill, or Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetzes (NetzDG) – Germany is trying to fight hate speech and misinformation on the internet. This inevitably will interfere with fundamental democratic values of freedom of expression.

According to the law proposal, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter risk being heavily fined (with up to 50 million euro), if they do not succeed to keep down hate speech or other alleged illegal content on their platforms.

Dirk Voorhoof, Executive Board Member of the ECPMF and Media Law Professor, comments:

Combatting illegal incitement to violence, hatred, racism and discrimination is indeed an imminent and crucial issue in our societies and all legitimate means should be activated in order to make our democracies respect the human rights of every man, woman and child. But this combat cannot be won by putting aside or by dramatically neglecting other fundamental values such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to fair trial. There is a justified outcry when public authorities remove, block or censor online content discussing matters of public concern, and we should not accept such interferences by private actors with dominant market power either. Confronted with practices of filtering users' online content by private companies, public authorities should rather impose procedural, substantial and transparency rules in order to respect the right to freedom of expression."

He adds:

Furthermore, prohibiting or censoring speech has never shown to be effective: it is rather by more speech including counter-speech, and by promoting media literacy, independent media and public interest journalism that our societies, confronted with challenges induced by social media, will be helped. It is most crucial that interferences with the right to freedom of expression should be decided on by judges and courts, guaranteeing transparency and the right to fair trial."

The ECPMF endorses the recommendation of Article 19 for the German government to withdraw the Social Network Enforcement Bill.

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