Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2017 Contents A26 world
guardian.co.tt Thursday, April 6, 2017
Germany yesterday took the European lead
in cracking down against hate speech and fake
news, threatening social media giants with fines
of up to 50 million euros if they fail to remove
offensive posts promptly.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved the
tough measure after assessing that companies like
Twitter and Facebook were not doing enough to erase
content that falls foul of German law.
"Hate crimes that are not effectively combated
and prosecuted pose a great danger to the peaceful
cohesion of a free, open and democratic society," said
Merkel's government in a statement.
Since the arrival of around one million asy-
lum-seekers in Germany since 2015, the volume of
xenophobic hate speech has exploded online.
Alarmed by the incendiary nature of the posts, the
government has repeatedly warned the online behe-
moths to better police the content on their network.
The web companies had pledged in 2015 to examine
and remove within 24 hours any hateful comments,
but Justice Minister Heiko Maas said not enough
Citing a government study, Maas said Twitter only
took down one per cent and Facebook 39 per cent of
the content reported by users.
Google's YouTube video sharing platform fared far
better, with a rate of 90 per cent.
Beyond hate speech and fake news, the draft leg-
islation also covers other illegal content, including
child pornography and terror-related activity.
The companies would have 24 hours to remove any
posts that openly violate German law after they are
flagged by users. Other offensive content would have
to be deleted within seven days after it is reported
Executives of the social media groups also risk in-
dividual fines up to five million euros ($5.3 million)
in case of non-compliance.
Under German law, incitement of hatred and racist
speech are illegal. But critics warned that the proposed
law could stifle freedom of expression.
Renate Kuenast, an MP with the opposition Greens,
said the fines were "almost an invitation to not just
erase real insults, but to wipe out almost everything
for the sake of playing it safe"
Likewise, the German Federation of Journalists
said it would be "difficult to reconcile freedom of
the press and opinion" with the proposed legislation.
Facebook warned that "this legislation would force
private companies rather than the courts to become
the judges of what is illegal in Germany"
A British Royal Navy patrol boat
chased a Spanish warship out of Gi-
braltar's territorial waters in the latest
spat between the UK and Spain over the
disputed enclave's future after Brexit.
The face-off occurred Tuesday just hours
after Spain advised Britain to "calm down"
as tensions continued to rise between the
The British Foreign Office defended the
decision to order the Spanish vessel, Infanta
Cristina, out of Gibraltar's waters, describing
the incident as an unlawful maritime in-
"The Royal Navy challenges all unlawful
maritime incursions into British Gibraltar
territorial waters--and did so again on this
occasion," an FCO spokesperson stated.
A short video of the incident was posted
on Gibraltar's official Twitter page.
Gibraltar is a strategic British territory lo-
cated at the entrance of the Mediterranean
Sea on the southern tip of Spain's Iberian
Peninsula with an area of 6.7 square kilo-
The territory was ceded to Britain in 1713 as
part of the Treaty of Utrecht. However, Spain
does not recognise the waters as sovereign
British overseas territory and has made it
clear that it wants the enclave back.
Spain frequently sends ships to patrol Gi-
braltar's waters, but the enclave's role in the
Brexit negotiations added a sense of urgency
to the latest confrontation.
The incident came days after former Con-
servative leader Michael Howard suggested
the UK government should be prepared to
go to war to protect the overseas territory.
Tensions heightened after the Europe-
an Union declared that Spain would have
a veto on the inclusion of Gibraltar in any
post-Brexit trade agreement with Britain.
After Britain's exit from the EU, Madrid
believes Gibraltarians may choose to rejoin
Spain to remain connected to the bloc.
London has insisted that Gibraltar is "not
for sale," vowing it would protect the over-
seas territory after Brexit.
Royal Navy boat chases Spanish warship out
online giants with
fake news, hate
German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen,
holds the unit colours for the new German Cyber
and Information Space Command, at the service for
the new Lt Gen, Ludwig Leinhos, in Bonn, Germany,
yesterday. According to the Defense Ministry, the
new command unit will be tasked to protect digital
controlled information networks as well as weapons
systems of the German Armed Forces. AP PHOTO
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