Facebook and Youtube publish figures on usage of ‘hate speech law’

Half a year ago, a controversial new German law came into force with the aim of combating hate speech on social media. On Friday, Youtube and Facebook published first figures on how often it has been used.

Facebook and Youtube publish figures on usage of 'hate speech law'
Photo: DPA

The so-called NetzDG or Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (network enforcement act) was fiercely disputed when it was conceived under former justice minister Heiko Maas last year.

The law, which came into force on January 1st this year, allows users to report abusive content, and obliges social media platforms to delete that content within 24 hours if it proves to be in contravention of the law.

Hailed by some as a blow against hate speech and fake news, the law also invited plenty of criticism. While some argued that it curtailed free speech, others claimed that its definitions were too vague, and that the short review period would lead to over-blocking or to the removal of the wrong type of content.

On Friday, both YouTube and Facebook published figures showing how often users have made use of the law, and how often it has been enforced.

YouTube reported that they had deleted around 27 percent of the 214,827 videos reported on their platform since January 1st, on the basis that they either contravened the website’s own community guidelines or the NetzDG. They claimed that, of the deleted videos, 92 percent of them had been removed within the 24-hour deadline.

Videos which were judged to be in breach of German law but not YouTube's own community guidelines were simply geo-blocked in Germany, reported Spiegel Online. 

Facebook’s figures were significantly different. Of the 1704 reported posts, they said, 362 had been blocked or deleted.

The justice ministry has criticized Facebook, claiming that the mechanism by which users can report content is overly complicated. Yet broadly speaking, the ministry claimed to be happy with how the law is working after six months.

“We are, however, only at the beginning of this process,” secretary of state for justice Gerd Billen told DPA.


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