Criminal investigations launched against Facebook in Germany for racist speech

Germany, a country that has first-hand experience in how rampant xenophobic speech can vitiate society, is taking serious action against Facebook for non-removal of racist speech from the social media platform. German prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against the Facebook managing director in Germany, Martin Ott.

Germany has seen a surge in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant speech on social media since the Syrian refugee crisis hit Europe in September. The current investigation follows much criticism by the government, politicians and the media of Facebook for allowing hate speech against Muslims, Syrian refugees in particular, since September. The rise in online hate speech has been accompanied by a rise in attacks against refugees in the country. You can read about it here, here and here.

It is worth noting that much of the criticism arises out of Facebook’s refusal to remove racist and hateful material, despite it being reported. As this article discusses, a user reported the comment “Shoot and burn them all…Rebuild the concentration camps…I don’t give a shit who calls me a Nazi,” only to be told that the comment did not violate Facebook’s community standard.

OHPI has been drawing attention to Facebook’s failure to apply its community standards more strictly. In fact, our independent online hate reporting tool has been specifically built in order to create greater accountability for Facebook’s reporting system.

Currently, only Facebook knows the nature and volume of hate speech reported to it, and whether the company removed it or not. However, we encourage people to report those items into our system that the platforms (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) are not removing, despite the reports. We collect the data and share it with the media, governments and the platforms to bring the unresolved hate items into the public domain. It will bring greater transparency into the speed and accuracy of the social media platforms’ reporting systems.

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