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New German Law Curbs Hate Speech, Holocaust Denial On Social Networks

BERLIN (JTA) — The German parliament passed a new law Friday designed to curb hate speech and libel on social networks.

The law requires Internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to remove material with obviously illegal content and fake defamatory “news” within 24 hours of its having been reported. Previously, illegal material was reported but did not have to be removed.

The new law places the onus on the social media platforms to remove the material or be subjected to heavy fines, reportedly of up to about $56 million.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, praised the new network law as a strong instrument against online hate speech, and added that an evaluation period would help determine its efficacy.

In an official statement, he noted that social media has become a hotbed of anti-Semitic incitement, which is easily spread worldwide. Since platform operators generally failed to stick to agreements of a voluntary nature, “this law is the logical consequence.”

Criticism of the law came from legislators from the Left Party and the Greens, who said they worried about granting Internet companies the power to set the boundaries for free speech online.

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