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March 15, 2017updated 26 Jul 2022 5:42am

Not-so-social media, Facebook and Twitter under fire across Europe for hate speech

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all been warned by German and British lawmakers that they are not doing enough to police hate speech.

By Joe Clark

Social media companies are under fire in both the UK and Germany for failing to properly combat hate speech.

It’s been a poor 24 hours for social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, who are facing mounting criticism for failing to tackle hate speech in both the UK and Germany. Google was also targeted in the UK.

Social media companies have come under increasing scrutiny over the last few years as the growth in extremist opinions has found a foothold in enclaves of social media, and targeted abuse has become much more rampant. Social Media companies have said they are trying to curtail this but law makers and government officials believe that not enough is being done.

The Home Affairs select committee, in the UK, claimed that given the billions of dollars that Facebook, Twitter, and Google, have at their disposal, they have a ‘terrible reputation’ and were making money from ‘peddling hate’.

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP, said to Google: “Your operating profit in 2016 was $30.4bn.

“Now, there are not many business activities that somebody openly would have to come and admit… that they are making money and people who use their platform are making money out of hate.

“You, as an outfit, are not working nearly hard enough to deal with this.”

The social media companies acknowledged that there was a difficulty in defining freedom of expression from hatred, and Peter Barron, vice president of communications and public affairs at Google Europe, said the company was working very hard to curtail it, but the amount of money being made from this content was very small.

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Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the committee, spoke of how Twitter had been used for very concentrated attacks on specific individuals, including torrents of racial abuse directed at London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, where the offenders accounts were still very much active.

Twitter acknowledged a lack of communication with users, regarding reported content, and stated this is something they will look at in future.

Both Richard Spencer, noted white supremacist, and David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, are active tweeters with large followings. Though other far right commentator, Milo Yiannopoulos, was banned for inciting racial hatred against actress and comedian Leslie Jones.

At the same time social media providers were also facing possible litigious actions in central Europe. In Germany, a new law is being planned that will ensure that failure to remove hate speech, slander, and threats of violence an offence that could carry a fine of  up to €50 million. The chief representative in that country could also be fined up to €5 million

The draft is expected to become law by Tuesday.

In a statement Heiko Maas, Justice Minister, said the law “sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content.”

A justice ministry survey found that Twitter deleted or blocked just 1% of hate speech on the platform within the allowed 24 hours, Facebook was slightly better with 39%, though YouTube had managed to be substantially more effective with 90% of criminal content being deleted in the time frame.

Following concerns that Fake News has been part of a propaganda campaign to influence recent elections, it seems that the German government is hoping to introduce the law quickly before campaigning begins for the countries general election in September.

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