Germany passes controversial law to fine Facebook over hate speech

German lawmakers have passed a controversial law under which Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies could face fines of up to €50 million ($ 57 million) for failing to remove hate speech. The Network Enforcement Act, commonly referred to as the “Facebook law,” was passed by the Bundestag, Germany’s parliamentary body, on Friday. It will go into effect in October.

Under the law, social media companies would face steep for failing to remove “obviously illegal” content — including hate speech, defamation, and incitements to violence — within 24 hours. They would face an initial fine of €5 million, which could rise to €50 million. Web companies would have up to one week to decide on cases that are less clear cut.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas and other supporters of the bill have argued that it is necessary to curb the spread of hate speech, which is strictly regulated under German law. But digital rights activists have broadly criticized the law, saying it would infringe on free speech, and that it gives tech companies disproportionate responsibility in determining the legality of online content.

A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill’s passage.

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