Germany: Facebook has 'social responsibility' to curb hateful content

MANILA, Philippines – The German interior minister called on Facebook to do better when it comes to removing racist and violent comments, after he visited the social network's Berlin offices, The Guardian reported Monday, August 29.

Thomas de Maiziere said, "Facebook has an immensely important economic position and just like every other large enterprise it has an immensely important social responsibility."

"Facebook should take down racist content or calls for violence from its pages on its own initiative even if it hasn't yet received a complaint," he added.

De Maiziere acknowledged that Facebook has been developing software and systems to identify outlawed content, including child pornography.

He noted, however, that the social network should ensure strict implementation of the terms against illegal content. 

"It's up to the company to ensure those terms are upheld," De Maiziere said. "A company with a good reputation for innovation will have to earn a good reputation in this area."

Fighting hate

Germany's government previously criticized Facebook for its response to hate speech and anti-immigrant sentiments.

Back in 2015, Heiko Maas, Germany's justice minister, told Reuters that the social network must abide by stricter German laws banning racist speech, even if that speech might be permissible elsewhere, such as the US, under free speech rules.

Said Maas, "Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany and it doesn't matter if they're posted on Facebook or uttered out in the public on the market square."

Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, Facebook’s head of public policy in Germany, said during the interior minister's visit that talks between political leaders and companies in social media would continue.

"We see ourselves as part of German society and part of the German economy," she explained.

"We know that we have a major responsibility and we want to live up to this responsibility. We take this issue very seriously indeed." –

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.