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Facebook fights against potential hate-speech fines in Germany

The country is considering penalizing social networks if they don't respond to complaints of hate speech and fake news within 24 hours. Facebook calls the issue "highly complex."

Facebook and other social networks could face fines in Germany over hate speech and fake news.
Sergei Konkov/TASS

Facebook has been combating problems of hate speech and misinformation posted on its website. Germany wants the social network to speed it up or else face fines.

At a conference in Berlin on Wednesday, Facebook pushed back.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is running for a fourth term in office. Her government has been preparing legislation that would require Facebook and other social networks to respond to complaints of hate speech and other malicious posts and remove offending content within 24 hours or suffer fines.

"There are no easy and radical solutions if you don't also accept unintended or unwanted consequences," said Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, Facebook's chief lobbyist in Germany, according to a report by Bloomberg. "It's a highly complex topic in which you can't easily say what's legal and what's illegal."

She added that the company takes fake news and hate speech "very seriously."

Representatives for Facebook and the German government didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The scrutiny from German regulators is just the latest example of Facebook grappling with its massive influence as a source of news and content for almost 1.8 billion people a month. The social network has been criticized in the US for letting the distribution of deliberately false articles go unchecked during the election. The company has also faced questions regarding censorship, and what should or shouldn't be allowed on the site.

On Wednesday, almost 80 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote a letter to Facebook accusing the company of "racially biased censorship." The groups alleged Facebook removes posts by activists of color, while letting posts from white supremacists remain.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a partnership with German third-party fact-checking organization Correctiv and promised to curb the distribution of fake news in Germany "within weeks," according to Reuters.

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