BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers are poised to pass a bill designed to enforce the country’s existing limits on free speech — including the long-standing ban on Holocaust denial — in social networks. Critics including tech giants and human rights campaigners say the legislation could have drastic consequences for free speech online.
The proposed measure would fine social networking sites up to 50 million euros ($56 million) if they fail to swiftly remove illegal content, including defamatory “fake news.”
It’s scheduled for a vote in parliament Friday, the last session before summer recess and September’s national election, and is widely expected to pass.
The U.N.’s independent expert on freedom of speech, David Kaye, warned the German government earlier this month that the criteria for removing material were “vague and ambiguous,” adding that the prospect of hefty fines could prompt social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to delete questionable content without waiting for a court to rule it’s unlawful.
“Such precautionary censorship would interfere with the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds on the internet,” he said.
The bill is the brainchild of Germany’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party that is the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. He accuses social networks of failing to prevent their sites from being used to spread inflammatory views and false information long illegal in Germany.
After World War II, the country…
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