Hate Speech Laws and Social Media Companies | Brief

The German government cabinet has passed a tougher stance against hate speech. What makes sense about the legal project, in Germany and elswhere, is to hold social media companies responsible to a somewhat larger degree. It is they who have the means to identify hate speech systematically.

Should citizens report on other citizens, this would be ineffective in secluded online spaces, similar to the situation on the ground in geographical regions, where people hold extremist views and a neighbor will not denigrate a neighbor. But social media companies can search for hateful content and identify many instances of hate speech.

The task is to define in which cases there will be action on the part of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), other police institutions and the German state attorneys. Should the number of complaints against hate speech be too pronounced, the courts would have a hard time processing the cases. That is why cases should be opened where there is convincing evidence.

That does not solve the problem as such, however. There must be a public debate. People must position themselves against hate speech, letting go of complacency.

With smaller social media companies forced to convey data, this would benefit the larger market competitors with their manpower, by the way. The small players are thus well-advised to partner up when it comes to content moderation, given the political developments.

Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
18 February 2020



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