German lawmakers have slammed Facebook and Twitter for their failure to tackle content which breaks the law, hate speech posted on the sites, and so-called fake news that's defamatory, warning of financial penalties for companies which do not tackle the problem. 90 percent of reported criminal violations were removed from the platform, and 82 percent of those deletions happened within 24 hours.
"The biggest problem is that the networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough". Freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins, the minister said, and there should be no space for criminal incitement and libel on social networks just as there isn't on the street.
While "fake news" in itself is not illegal, supporters of restrictions say it often incorporates defamation and incitement that would be punished if carried by traditional media.
"Too little criminal content is being deleted, and it's not being deleted sufficiently quickly", the justice minister told journalists. But, a new survey puts that number at 39 percent.
Tuesday's announcement comes after a warning previous year from justice minister Heiko Maas that the government would monitor how social media companies were dealing with increasing hate crime as well as with deleting illegal content on their respective platforms - and would intervene if their response was deemed inadequate.
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According to Bloomberg, social networks will be required to delete or block "obviously illegal" material within 24 hours after it has been flagged, with a seven-day window for other illegal content. Germany has set a target of 70% of content being deleted within one day.
In a statement, the company said: 'We have clear rules against hate speech and are working hard to remove such content from our platform'. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue. Facebook reportedly said its own research showed it had higher rates of removal.
Twitter declined to comment directly on the proposal, but noted that it had taken a number of measures in recent months created to prevent abuse and allow users to filter unwanted content.
Online hate crime has dramatically increased in Germany in recent years, with authorities recording a 176 per cent rise in 2015 compared with 2014 figures.