It looks like the German government is serious about its proposed ban on fake news. In the latest development, the German Ministry of Justice revealed that it is considering levying big fines on online platforms like Facebook that fail to act expeditiously to delete fake news -- as well as hate speech and other kinds of illegal content.
In order to get Facebook and other online platforms to remove prohibited content as quickly as possible, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas is proposing a fine of 500,000 euros, or $522,000, for every fake news item that isn’t removed within 24 hours of being flagged. The same fine would apply to items deemed hate speech, including racism or statements inciting violence, which is illegal in Germany.
The new measures under consideration would also require online platforms to distribute corrections calling out fake news to at least the same people who saw the original bogus report. Individuals who are harmed by fake news stories would also be due compensation. Finally, foreign-owned companies would be required to maintain offices in Germany to handle these requests.
Germany lawmakers are especially concerned about the potential impact of fake news on the country’s upcoming 2017 parliamentary elections, citing speculation that bogus stories may have influenced the recent U.S. presidential race.
Germany’s powerful chancellor, Angela Merkel, has previously spoken out against fake news circulating online, particularly made-up stories about the roughly one million Middle Eastern refugees who arrived in the country over the last two years. Many pundits fear fake news stories will work to the advantage of the populist, right-wing Alternative for Germany party, which wants to limit immigration and leave the euro.
For its part, Facebook has denied that fake news items influenced the U.S. presidential election, but has agreed to implement fact-checking by third party organizations, which would be incorporated into the News Feed.