The Scourge of Hate Speech on Social Platforms

Creators of Social interactive platforms often have had time controlling online harassment, hate speech and overall cyber bullying that are constantly growing rampant. The anonymity associated with these social platforms have prompted people who hold grudges towards particular groups of interests or individual persons to spew out hateful content aimed at psychological and morally degrading them.

The recent rise of hateful utterances, comments and content in the social platforms forced the European regulators to crack the whip and Germany was the first country to take action. In January of 2018, they enforced a law whereby social interactive platforms are forced to take down any content that may be of a hateful nature or anything that seems appropriate and illegal and is specifically targeted towards others users or groups of the same platform. If the content was not taken down within 24hours or seven days varying on the seriousness of the offense, they risk a £50 million fine.

This law was named the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG). The law also went on further to state that the social interactive platforms are required to report their findings after every six months without failure. It has been eighteen months since the NetzDG was implemented and in 2019, the European watchdogs have increased their intensity in the fight against hate speech in social interactive platforms. They have been levying fines to platforms that have gone against the law on hate speech. Breaching of copyrights laws, infringement of data and violation of trust have also been included.

Facebook Charged with A Fine for Violation of Law

The Bundesamt für Justiz (BfJ), the Federal Office of Justice in Germany, made clear of its plans to fine Facebook for a total sum of €2 million. This is after Facebook was alleged to violate the terms set on the NetzDG law on how they report the complaints they get.

During the last logging of reports, Facebook only made 1,704 complaints. This is quite a lower margin in comparison to YouTube and Twitter which made 215,000 and 264,000 complaints respectively. The reason for this, according to BfJ is that, Facebook has made its reporting form is too difficult to find.

BfJ went on to further clarify that Facebook was not disclosing the whole truth about the level of content that was illegal and how they were handling it. They made the allegation on basis that Facebook has a stipulated method on how they repot post that fall short of the required guidelines but BfJ does not have access to the complains made there.

In their defense, Facebook said that they did not have an objection from the BfJ. They said that they believe their NetzDG reports were in line with the set law but it (the law) had a number of gruyeres that had already been pointed out by numerous critics. They also said they would look into the fine notice carefully and make an appeal.

The BfJ, in response, added three more violations against Facebook including the training level of those employed to handle the complaints and the manner in which the very complaints were handled.

The NetzDG Is Working

Under the Germany’s NetzDG law, the social interactive platforms will release their reports this month. The last report that was given in January 2019 the top most social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook and Google gave an informative report on the past six months.

In the last report, between July and December 2018, the complaints Facebook received amounted to 1,048 in comparison to the 1,704 in the previous report. The percentage of blocked or deleted content also went up from 21% to 35%.

YouTube got 168,000 complaints in comparison to 215,000 from the last report. They block over 95% of hateful content in a period of 24 hours.

Other Countries Are Not Behind

In the recent weeks, France has also followed suit after Germany and has set in regulations giving a time limit to the U.S social platforms to removal all sort of hateful content or get fined £1.25 million.

The U.K. government has also shown interest in regulating content. In April of 2019, they gave a detailed proposal showing how to deal with illegal content. U.S government on the other hand is first observing on how European countries like Germany is dealing with it before taking a step towards measures against hate speech.

The Law Still Has a Long Way to Go

Instead of attacking the social interactive platform, the more suitable way to approach hateful content would be to work together with the various governments. By working together, they will create a much more holistic approach to the dynamics of hate speech online.

The creators of these platforms also need to come up with more refined way of tackling online offenders. They should have the technology to analyses, detect and remove this type of content to prevent it from spreading too quickly.

They should also have legal knowledge to handle content that may often be defamation towards another party. The indicated process of legal issues online should not be a problem to social interactive platform is they know how to approach them.

Before implementing a law like the NetzDG content regulators from the countries should first understand that the online interactive platform work under the principle of ‘freedom of speech’ and to effectively nip the ‘hate’ bud, they have to fully understand how to navigate this.

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Martech is a complex topic where technology and processes are constantly evolving. I’ve tried to make sense of this complex industry by explaining ideas in an unbiased way, looking at events and technologies holistically, and shining a light on participants and practices when warranted.

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