After being in force for merely ten weeks, the German law requiring social media companies to quickly remove hate speech from their sites (Network Enforcement Act – NetzDG) may soon be revised following criticism that too much online content is being blocked.
The law, which came into full force on January 1, 2018, is being closely watched by other countries considering similar measures. To remedy some of the law’s unintended consequences, German politicians already have proposed
- To add an amendment to help web users get incorrectly deleted material restored online; and
- to set up an independent body to review and respond to reports of offensive content from the public, rather than the individual companies taking those actions themselves.
The designated state secretary for digital affairs, Dorothee Baer, had already called for a review of the law at the end of January and did not rule out the possibility that it might have to be rewritten. Meanwhile, other politicians brought up for discussion a claim for recovery of unjustifiably deleted mail, or demanded that the social media platforms at least make their decisions more transparent.
The proposed changes follow widespread criticism from opponents of the law, who argue that the threat of severe fines is prompting internet firms to err on the side of caution and block more content than is necessary. To date, however, there have been apparently far fewer complaints about the NetzDG than originally feared, and the ability to delete posts seems to work well. Only 205 complaints have been received by the Federal Office of Justice so far claiming that social media sites have ignored a request for deletion.