Top German court strikes down Facebook rules on hate speech

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Jul 29, 2021, 07:25 PM(IST)

A man holds a smart phone with the icons for the social networking apps Facebook, Instagram and Twitter seen on the screen in Moscow on March 23, 2018 Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

What's interesting about this incident is that the comments made by the plaintiff violated Facebook's community standards governing hate speech

A top German court ruled on Thursday tha Facebook illegally took down racist posts and blocked account of their author since it failed to inform the user.

This has complicated a fraught debate over toxic discourse on social networks as Germany girds for a general election in September that polls show may not deliver a stable government.

What's interesting about this incident is that the comments made by the plaintiff violated Facebook's community standards governing hate speech.

Hate speech is banned under German law if it threatens peace or incites violence.

In its three-page summary, the Karlsruhe-based court stated that Facebook's terms of service regarding the deletion of posts and blocking accounts for violating its community standards were "null and void".

This, it added, is because Facebook does not undertake to inform the user about the removal of an offensive post at least retrospectively, to advise that it is blocking an account, to give a reason for doing so, or to offer the right of appeal.

Facebook said it would review the judgment to ensure that it can continue to effectively remove hate speech in Germany.

“We have zero tolerance for hate speech, and we’re committed to removing it from Facebook," a company spokesperson said.

The main post in question, which was reproduced in the court ruling, alleges that "Islamist immigrants" are free to murder with impunity in Germany.

"Migrants can murder and rape here and nobody cares! It's about time the Office for the Protection of the Constitution sorted this out," the post adds, referring to Germany's main domestic security agency.

Germany recently beefed up a hate-speech law that first came into force in 2018 that requires platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the video-sharing service run by Alphabet's Google unit, to police and take down toxic content.

Google this week requested a judicial review of a new provision in the law, known in German as NetzDB, saying it violated privacy because data can be passed to law enforcement before it is evident a crime has been committed.

(With inputs from agencies)

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