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German Lawmakers to Start 2017 Off with Facebook “Fake News” Ban

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

With the term “fake news” being thrown around by this group or that, it is getting hard to figure out who the real truth reporters are, and while we could debate the real sources of fake news, lawmakers in Germany would rather you only see news it deems is real. With support from the two leading parties, the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union, the “fake news” debate is expected to begin after the Christmas holiday.

Facebook is the obvious target

Facebook is the obvious target in the debate as disgruntled media personalities pointed fingers at the social network after they reported that Facebook was a major contributor in misguiding American voters through the publication of “fake news” in the recent presidential election that saw Donald Trump secure the presidency despite mainstream media’s persistence that it couldn’t be done.

Now with Germany gearing up for their own general election in 2017, there is a fear that it too could fall victim to the same lie tactics, so by proposing a €500,000 ($525,000) fine for every “fake news” story Facebook doesn’t remove, lawmakers are hoping it will put an end to the non-controlled misinformation before Germans go out to vote.

“not covered under freedom of speech”

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild am Sonntag that such “fake news” is not protected under freedom of speech laws. “Defamation and malicious gossip are not covered under freedom of speech,” Mass told the newspaper. “Anyone who tries to manipulate the political discussion with lies needs to be aware [of the consequences],” which could be up to five years in jail.

In a statement issued to Ars Technica, Facebook commented on the upcoming German agenda by stating the company already has their own initiative underway to combat the spread of such news. Their statement read:

We take the issues raised very seriously, and we are engaging with key politicians and digital experts from all parties and relevant ministries interested in this matter. Our announcement last week underlines our efforts to improve our systems. We have announced several new functions that address the issue of fake news and hoaxes.

While any new legislation would most likely apply to all forms of social media, Facebook has often been the easy target for the German government. Both have been at odds with each other over the spread of hate speech, and despite new agreements being reached on the regular, Facebook finds itself falling short in the eyes of the government. Adding “fake news” into the mix of online censorship will most likely put the two at odds even more in 2017.

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Sources: Reuters, Ars Technica, the Guardian

Photo: thierry ehrmann [Flickr]

Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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