• Germany's news in English

German Facebook boss faces hate speech probe

The Local · 11 Nov 2015, 08:00

Published: 10 Nov 2015 14:12 GMT+01:00
Updated: 11 Nov 2015 08:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

According to Der Spiegel, Hamburg's state prosecutors' office are investigating Martin Ott, Facebook's managing director for Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.

Prosecutors said last month that they were investigating three Facebook Germany GmbH managers to decide whether to press charges.

A complaint had been filed by Bavarian lawyer Chan-jo Jun against the managers, pointing in particular to examples of hate speech and racism related to refugees, including posts that show Nazi symbols like swastikas and Hitler salutes, according to Die Welt.

It was the first time that Facebook managers have been targeted over hate comments on the site.

Under the German criminal code, the crime of incitement of hatred is punishable of up to five years in prison for encouraging violence or hatred towards others for their religious, racial or ethnic background.

Written comments are punishable with up to three years in prison, including those who disseminate them or make them accessible.

Facebook under fire

Spiegel reported that in his position, Ott is ultimately responsible for whether hateful comments are deleted.

Facebook has faced tough scrutiny in Germany for not doing enough to monitor hate speech on its network, particularly amid the refugee crisis. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Chancellor Angela Merkel recently that the company would do more to combat racist comments.

Prosecutors must still determine whether there is enough evidence to press charges against the executives.

Though Facebook did not comment directly on the investigations, Spiegel reported that a spokesperson did say: "It is for us important to point out that there are various ways to report content on Facebook."

Germans adrift in an online ocean

Klemens Skibicki, Director of the Institute for Law and Communications on the Internet at the Cologne Business School, told The Local that the case was yet another example of German and American views of free expression clashing online.

Story continues below…

Americans value free speech above all else, but are more prudish than Germans when it comes to nudity, for example.

"It appears almost impossible to respect every different cultural point of view amidst the unimaginable volumes of data [on Facebook]," Skibicki said, pointing out that Germans are just 30 million of the social network's 1.5 billion users.

Facebook bases its actions on its American terms of service and Irish law (given that its European HQ is in Ireland), he explained.

"It will in any case be exciting to see how the networked cultural space of the Facebook generation will develop," Skibicki added.

"My prediction is that for the probably very few cases which represent a criminal action, those involved will find a way through, with the involvement of the justice system, that will see Germans on Facebook having to bear things just as if they were sitting around a pub table."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd