by Gaiaitalia.com #International twitter@gaiaitaliacom #HRW
According to Human Rights Watch press note the new German law named NetzDG that compels social media companies to remove hate speech and other illegal content can lead to unaccountable, overbroad censorship and should be promptly reversed. The law sets a dangerous precedent for other governments looking to restrict speech online by forcing companies to censor on the government’s behalf.
“Governments and the public have valid concerns about the proliferation of illegal or abusive content online, but the new German law is fundamentally flawed,” said Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch. “It is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.”
Parliament approved the Network Enforcement Act, commonly known as NetzDG, on June 30, 2017, and it took full effect on January 1, 2018.
The law requires large social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, to promptly remove “illegal content,” as defined in 22 provisions of the criminal code, ranging widely from insult of public office to actual threats of violence. Faced with fines up to 50 million euro, companies are already removing content to comply with the law. At least three countries – Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines – have directly cited the German law as a positive example as they contemplate or propose legislation to remove “illegal” content online. The Russian draft law, currently before the Duma, could apply to larger social media platforms as well as online messaging services.
Two key aspects of the law violate Germany’s obligation to respect free speech, Human Rights Watch said. First, the law places the burden on companies that host third-party content to make difficult determinations of when user speech violates the law, under conditions that encourage suppression of arguably lawful speech. Even courts can find these determinations challenging, as they require a nuanced understanding of context, culture, and law. Faced with short review periods and the risk of steep fines, companies have little incentive to err on the side of free expression.
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(15th february, 2018)