German Companies Report on the Implementation of New Hate Speech Law

August 7, 2018

At the end of July, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube submitted their first reports under the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG), a new German law that requires Internet platforms with more than 2 million users to take down illegal content within 24 hours, or seven days in complex cases. If companies fail to comply, they risk fines for up to 50 million euros.

NetzDG requires companies to provide aggregate data on their implementation of the law twice a year, including on the number of complaints, the type of complaints, and the number of complaints that resulted in the deleting or blocking of content in Germany.

The reports reveal the following:

There is also a lot that these reports do not tell us:

In our two recent reports on human rights in the tech industry, we argue that regulating harmful content online with the type of regulation that Germany has put in place can have a number of unintended effects, some of which may be more harmful than the sought-after benefit. Definitions of  “harmful” can differ significantly, and repressive regimes may use the German model as an excuse to force online platforms to censor free speech. Among the countries already citing the German model are Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines.  We therefore recommend refraining from adopting overbroad legislation regulating content. Instead, we urge governments to require increased transparency for online political-advertising sponsorship, improve collaboration between industry and governments, and strengthen coordination among government bodies. Taken together, such measures can help strike the delicate balance needed between eliminating harmful content and preserving free speech online.


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