Online hate speech is a hot topic at the moment. With the influx of trolls and ‘anti-foreigner’ statements made online, it seems as though this issue is going to become a bit of a headache for the internet’s largest companies. One country, however, has taken those companies on to make sure online hate speech is a thing of the past.
Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter
They’re some of the biggest social networks on the internet, with billions of users and pages of content between them. As the popularity of these social media sites have grown, so have the number of people using them for less than positive means. Facebook and Twitter in particular have seen a huge influx of hate speech being shared via their users, particularly since the recent Syrian Refugee crisis. Anti-refugee, anti-religion and anti-foreigner sentiments have been shared as viral images, messages and videos across the platforms – and it’s getting worse. As more refugees are granted safety in various countries, more and more messages of hate seem to crop up from people around the globe. So, Germany have decided to put a stop to it.
Germany and Hate Speech
This country has seen a sharp increase in the number of people spreading hate speech over the last year, particularly as around a million refugees are thought to have entered the country in that time. Images, videos and messages have been shared with the intent to stir up hatred towards those fleeing from war. Germany is the first country to really do something about this ever-growing problem, coming to an agreement with Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in December 2015. By mid-2016 removal requests will be present on German Twitter and Google pages; allowing people to report content they believe could be seen as hate speech. The content must then be reviewed by dedicated teams within 24 hours, and removed if necessary. Facebook and YouTube already have similar measures in place, but have promised to be more vigilant with cases reported from Germany.
Freedom of Speech?
While many have seen this as a positive move from Germany, there are some people who are kicking up a fuss. After all, what about freedom of speech? In America, for example, hate speech is not illegal. This means that something like this agreement would never be put into place or enforced. Other countries have also refused to have a say in what people do online, in case they cause upset. Facebook recently came under fire for refusing to remove an anti-Muslim speech by Donald Trump on his own Facebook page, stating that it is political discourse. So, can we all plead freedom of speech and continue on this hate speech rampage? Well, no. A lot of countries have made hate speech illegal and are working on ways to enforce this on the internet. Trolls, for example, are now seeing harsher sentences in the UK. However, there is a very fine line between allowing people freedom of speech and letting hate speech run rampant. It’s now down to world leaders and companies such as Facebook to balance on that line, and make the internet a safer place.
Germany are leading the way in this bold move, but we’ve yet to see whether the internet’s biggest companies will actually keep their promises. And, we still need to see whether there will be an uprising from the freedom of speech brigade or whether those promoting hate speech will finally fade out into the background.