The cabinet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website, in German] approved draft legislation on Wednesday that would impose fines on social media websites for failing to delete users’ entries that violate German hate speech laws. The fines [DW report] could reportedly be as high as 50 million Euros ($53 million). The law would make the websites responsible for removing [Reuters report] the illegal content and making regular reports to the German government on complaints filed. It also seeks to make it easier for social media users to report offensive conduct. Critics of the law argue that it could limit freedom of expression and suppress speech on the Internet. The legislation will next be submitted to the lower house of parliament, where the bill is expected to be approved.
Internationally, a governmental balance between freedom of expression and eliminating the dangers of hate speech is still a significant problem. Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by emphasizing [JURIST report] the importance of curtailing hate speech. He urged states to adopt new legislation “expressly prohibiting racist hate speech, including the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, and threats or incitement to violence.” In March the German Constitutional Court rejected efforts [JURIST report] to ban the far-right ultranationalist political party National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), finding the group does not pose a sufficient threat to the German government. Last year, the Dutch district court of Haarlem said [JURIST report] that Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch right wing political party, Party for Freedom, was guilty of hate speech. The incident in question happened in March 2014, during a political rally where Wilders promised to reduce the number of Morrocans in the Netherlands.