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German prosecutors drop case against Facebook involving ‘hate speech’

German prosecutors said on Monday they were dropping a case into whether Facebook bosses including Mark Zuckerberg were condoning hate speech online.

German prosecutors drop case against Facebook involving 'hate speech'
File photo: DPA

Executives at the social media giant found themselves the target of a complaint filed in 2016 that alleged they were not taking sufficient action to clamp down on racist content.

Concern has risen in Germany over the vitriolic comments made by some Facebook and Twitter users, which gained intensity as public misgivings grew in some quarters over the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015.

Lawyer Chan-jo Jun, who initiated the claim, had compiled 442 Facebook posts containing incitement of hatred and violence, as well as support for terrorist groups.

SEE ALSO: Is a new German law encouraging social media giants to censor opinions?

But he said the social network failed to delete them, even though they were repeatedly flagged up as offensive speech.

Despite the list of posts, the prosecutor said: “Failing to delete illegal posts on the internet platform in a timely way is not a basis for suspicion of criminal behaviour by executives at Facebook.”

Germany has in recent months moved to clamp down against online hate speech.

A new law that came into force on January 1st requires social media giants to remove hate speech and other illegal content, or risk fines of up to €50 million.

Under the legislation, companies like Twitter and Facebook would have 24 hours to remove posts that openly violate German law after they are flagged by users.

Fierce protests by free-speech advocates against the law — known as NetzDG — prompted the government to announce in early January it was already considering modifications.

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Facebook deletes virus conspiracy accounts in Germany

Facebook says it has deleted the accounts, pages and groups linked to virus conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers in Germany who are vocal opponents of government restrictions to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook deletes virus conspiracy accounts in Germany
An anti-vaccination and anti-Covid demo in Berlin on August 28th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

With just 10 days to go before Germany’s parliamentary elections – where the handling of the pandemic by Angela Merkel’s goverment will come under scrutiny – Facebook said it had “removed a network of Facebook and Instagram accounts” linked to the so-called “Querdenker” or Lateral Thinker movement.

The pages posted “harmful health misinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence”, the social media giant said in a statement.

It said that the people behind the pages “used authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify violating content, primarily focused on promoting the conspiracy that the German government’s Covid-19 restrictions are part of a larger plan to strip citizens of their freedoms and basic rights.”

The “Querdenker” movement, which is already under surveillance by Germany’s intelligence services, likes to portray itself as the mouthpiece of opponents
of the government’s coronavirus restrictions, organising rallies around the country that have drawn crowds of several thousands.

READ ALSO: Germany’s spy agency to monitor ‘Querdenker’ Covid sceptics

It loosely groups together activists from both the far-right and far-left of the political spectrum, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers. And some of their rallies have descended into violence.

Social media platforms regularly face accusations that they help propagate misinformation and disinformation, particularly with regard to the pandemic and vaccines.

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