Facebook to help Germany crack down on racist posts

Facebook to help Germany crack down on racist posts
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Facebook is joining a task force assembled by the German government to crack down on hateful content to the platform, part of a broader government effort to deal with a rise in racist posts directed at the record number of migrants trying to enter Europe.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Germany’s justice ministry is creating a task force with Facebook and other Internet firms to look at whether posts violate German prohibitions on hate speech. Facebook will also donate to groups that fight online hate speech and help users write posts designed to counter hateful ones.

The Journal reported that Facebook did not believe it should be responsible for deleting posts that don't violate the law or the website's own policies, even if some find the comments offensive. The social network argued that it does not view someone's refugee status as a protected class, the paper reported, citing an unnamed source.

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The social network’s decision comes under pressure from the German government to do something about the posts as migrants surge into Europe from Syria and other countries.

“We have a very effective system, but it’s not 100 percent effective,” said Richard Allen, who leads Facebook’s policy efforts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to the Journal.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas set up the meeting with Facebook that led to Monday’s compromise. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that if “people, using their own name, incite hatred against other people, not only the government has to act, but also Facebook should do something against those statements.”

Various types of hate speech are punishable with prison terms in Germany, including those that incite violence against a person because of their race or ethnicity.

Facebook and other social platforms have long struggled with how best to respond to government requests to remove information. Some countries have asked U.S. based firms to actively monitor and remove extremist messages. In the second half of 2014, Facebook restricted 60 pieces of content at the behest of the German government, according to the company’s data.