Germany considers fining Facebook for fake news

Germany is considering legislation that would penalize Facebook and other social media outlets for publishing fake news.

Proposed fines for the yet to be drafted law could be as high as 500,000 euros reports German magazine Der Spiegel.

“If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros,” Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary chief of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, told the magazine. Oppermann’s comments were translated by Deutsche Welle.

Facebook told The Hill it was aware of Oppermann’s comments and interested in speaking with German lawmakers about the issue.


“We take the issues raised very seriously. And we are engaging with key politicians and digital experts from all parties and relevant ministries in Germany interested in this matter,” said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement emailed to The Hill.

The German legislative push comes as Facebook is implementing its own steps to crack down on fake news amid tremendous public scrutiny. Critics say Facebook didn’t do enough to stop fake news stories on its platform during the 2016 campaign.

Last week, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company introduced tools that would allow users to flag news to be checked by independent vetting organizations. The social media platform is also testing algorithms to identify potential fake news and show it less prominently in users’ news feeds. Stories that are deemed to be questionable will be identified on the platform.

But those changes sparked criticism from conservative media outlets, including Breitbart, who worry that the fact-checking will not be objective.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since clarified the tools, noting their focus was on the most “obvious hoaxes,” that are “designed to get people to click on the stories and see ads.”

German officials reportedly want to curb the impact of fake news ahead of the country’s 2017 elections. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party, the Christian Democrats, are also considering penalties for fake news.

“There has been only talk for too long. Now we in the coalition will take action at the beginning of next year,” said senior member of the Christian Democrats, Volker Kauder in a statement on Friday. 

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