The German Justice Ministry has introduced a draft law that would impose fines of up to €50 million on social media companies that fail to remove hate speech and other illegal content from their platforms quickly.

The fines would be imposed whenever social media companies do not remove online threats, hate speech, or slanderous fake news. Any obviously illegal content would have to be deleted within 24 hours; reported material that is later determined to be illegal would have to be removed within seven days.The draft law stipulates that social networks must

  • offer users clear and easily accessible means to file complaints;
  • review them quickly; and
  • delete blatantly illegal content within 24 hours.

Offensive posts would have to be taken down within one week after a complaint is submitted. Companies would also be required to file quarterly reports on their efforts to crack down on hate speech.

A surge of hate speech on Facebook and other social media sites in Germany has increased the political pressure on companies, with a general election taking place in September of 2017.

Facebook and others pledged in 2015 to examine and remove within 24 hours any hateful comments spreading online, focusing particularly on hate speech relating to the influx of migrants and refugees. But Germany’s justice minister Heiko Maas stated on April 25, 2017 that “networks aren’t taking the complaints of their own users seriously enough”.

In a statement, Germany’s justice minister Heiko Maas said “it is now clear that we must further increase the pressure on social networks. We need legal regulations to make companies even more obligated to eradicate criminal offenses.”