Websites Face $60 Million Fine for 'Illegal Content'

John Lister's picture

Social media sites could face fines of almost $60 million if they don't remove hate speech and other illegal posts within 24 hours of receiving a report.

The new German law has prompted Facebook to recruit hundreds of staff. It's the result of the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz law, which is known as NetzDG for short, and literally translates as Network Enforcement Act. (Source:

Libel And Hate Speech Both Covered

The law doesn't change what content is allowed and not allowed. Instead, it says that sites must remove any content that is "obviously illegal." A prime example is posts that make violent threats. It also includes libelous content, which is considered a criminal offence, rather than civil offence in Germany.

While some reports suggest the law covers "fake news", in reality it only applies where the falsehood directly harms somebody's reputation. The law also encompasses existing bans in Germany on content relating to the country's Nazi history such as denying that the Holocaust took place.

Under NetzDG, companies could face fines if they fail to remove illegal content within 24 hours of the report. However, officials won't monitor such cases; instead members of the public must fill in an online form to tell the country's Federal Office of Justice that the deadline has been missed. The deadline is extended to 7 days to cases considered more complicated, specifically those that don't have a clear libel or threat of violence.

Law Sparks Free Speech Debate

While the law can mean fines (theoretically up to €50 million) for non-compliance, there's no mechanism to force the company to delete the content. Facebook will add a report from next week while Google and Twitter have already added options for users in Germany to make reports specifically relating to the law. (Source:

Critics of the law say it risks websites being so concerned about the possible fines that they err on the side of caution and remove content that isn't illegal rather than go to the time and expense of investigating each case.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you like the idea of the law? Would you like to see it enforced in your own country? Does the law and possible fine go too far, or is having it only apply to inherently illegal content a good borderline?

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Sparkydog's picture

It really doesn't matter how I feel about the law, as I watch Europe being conquered from within.
The EU's endgame is One World Government.
We need more countries like Poland, UK, and Hungary step up.

spiras's picture

...are not synonymous.

The same laws that apply to the real world should apply to cyberspace. The internet is NOT an anarchy. It's part of the lives of its users, and should be governed and regulated accordingly. What one cannot do in newspapers or on billboards should not be allowed in social media. It's the right, and duty, of governments to protect their citizens on all platforms.

Chief's picture

I pay my ISP to give me access. I use gmail as they are excellent at filtering spam. I block content I do not wish to see on Facebook. Government regulation has never fixed anything; in fact, with regulation, the internet will have more "problems" than any of us could possibly imagine.