Twitter 2.0 could be set for a new test of its stripped-back moderation processes, with Germany’s Federal Justice Office (BfJ) today announcing that it’s launched new proceedings to potentially fine Twitter for failing to comply with the nation’s hate speech removal requirements.
Under Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, all social media platforms need to respond promptly to user reports of illegal content, with a maximum seven day turnaround time, though a response can be required within 24 hours for ‘clearly illegal’ cases. Failure to meet these requirements can be punished under Germany’s criminal code, and can result in fines of up to 50 million euros (US$59.2 million).
As per the BfJ (translated from German):
“Numerous content was reported to the BfJ that was published on Twitter, which the authority considers illegal and, despite user complaints, was not deleted or blocked by the provider within the legally stipulated periods. The fine proceedings initiated are based on this.”
The announcement points to illegal content that was reported to Twitter over a four-month period.
“All content contains similar, unjustified, defamatory statements of opinion, all directed against the same person. According to the BfJ, they constitute an offense.”
The identity of the individual in question is not shared, but the BfJ is now putting Twitter on notice to respond to its queries, before it takes the next step of applying to the Bonn District Court for a preliminary ruling on the case.
Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, which was first implemented in 2017 (originally dubbed ‘The Facebook Act’), is only applicable to social media networks that have more than two million registered users in Germany. Thus far, no social platforms have been fined under the act, but the BfJ has used it to prompt more action from the big social platforms, in order to better enforce local laws.
Now, Elon Musk and Co. will need to assess these requirements, and how they can ensure compliance – or they risk facing significant fines in the region.
For his part, Elon has repeatedly stated that Twitter will comply with local laws, so it seems like this case will be addressed before it moves to the next stage. But still, it could also be a test of Musk’s new moderation approach, which leans more on user responses, and Community Notes, and less on manual intervention by Twitter’s moderation team.
That may not work under German requirements, which could prompt a re-think, at least in some regions.
We’ll have to wait and see, because as of this afternoon, Elon wasn’t aware of the details.
Which you’d assume he would be, given his repeated claims that Twitter is faster than any mainstream news outlet in distributing content.
Then again, he is the CEO of several companies. Probably got a lot on his plate.