Facebook, Google and Twitter have agreed to delete hateful messages on their platforms within 24 hours in Germany, officials announced Tuesday. The government has been trying to curb hate speech on social platforms as more people have taken to the Web to post hateful comments about the influx of refugees in the country.
“When the limits of free speech are trespassed, when it is about criminal expressions, sedition, incitement to carry out criminal offences that threaten people, such content has to be deleted from the net,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said. According to Maas, each of the three companies will use internal “specialist teams” to assess reports of hate speech and delete it when appropriate, in accordance with German law.
It’s unclear how sweeping the tech sites’ crackdown on hate speech will be, or how it will affect comments made outside Germany that can still be read by German users. If the implementation is similar to Europe’s “right to be forgotten,” which lets Internet users request articles about themselves be removed from Google search results, then content flagged as hate speech would be removed from the German versions of these sites but still be viewable on foreign versions of the platforms.
In November, Germany launched an investigation into Facebook’s European executives on suspicion that the website was facilitating anti-immigrant hate speech. Facebook has said the allegations lack merit.