The government of Germany is considering imposing a legal regime that would allow fining social networks such as Facebook up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for each day the platform leaves a “fake news” story up without deleting it.
In the name of combating harms from false news, the German government next year will consider the bill, which has bipartisan support, that will allow both official and private complainants to flag content that is considered “fake news”.
The law would also force the social networks to create in-country offices focused on responding to takedown demands and would make these networks responsible for compensation if a post by individual users were found to slander someone.
“If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros,” said Germany’s parliamentary chief of the Social Democrat party, Thomas Oppermann in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.
German lawmakers believe this bill will help tackle the possibility of Russia meddling in Parliamentary elections scheduled for next year. This follows the allegations that the Kremlin was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee that led to the leak of thousands of emails by key aides to Hillary Clinton.
The German intelligence agency has warned that Russia could try to undermine the elections next year by employing automated bots on social media to spread fake news articles.
Some members of the government have advocated criminalizing the spread of so-called “fake news”. Patrick Sensburg, a senior MP in Merkel’s party said recently: “Targeting disinformation to destabilize a state should be a criminal offence.”
Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, told Bild am Sonntag: “Facebook is earning an awful lot of money with fake news.” He added: “A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility.”