Facebook this week said it will work with the German government to crack down on hate speech and xenophobia online, following calls from the country's justice minister to do more to combat hateful speech about refugees. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook will work with Germany's ministry of justice, internet service providers, and other social networks to form a task force aimed at flagging and removing hateful content more quickly. Facebook also pledged to help finance organizations that track online hate speech, though the company did not say it would change its policy on what types of content are considered offensive.
Germany expects to see a record number of asylum seekers this year, most from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. The country expects to see 800,000 refugees through this year, and has pledged to accept more than any other European government, though its response has stoked some xenophobic riots. Last month, Germany's ministry of justice criticized Facebook for not doing more to police hate speech, alleging that the social network reacts faster to remove sexual imagery than it does racist messages. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced the creation of the online task force after meeting with Facebook in Berlin on Monday.
"The idea is to better identify content that is against the law and remove it faster."
"The idea is to better identify content that is against the law and remove it faster from the web," Maas said.
Under German law, public comments inciting violence against a particular group on religious or ethnic grounds are punishable by up to three years in prison; convicted Holocaust deniers face up to five years. Facebook and other internet companies regularly remove content that violates local hate speech laws, but European governments have called for social media sites to take a more proactive role in response to growing terrorist propaganda and xenophobic movements.
A person familiar with the discussions tells The Wall Street Journal that refugees are not a protected group under Facebook's hate speech policy, on the grounds that the site allows for criticism of people based on their actions and not their identities. A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the policy.