The German Justice Minister says his country must do more to fight fake news


Facebook has already announced the plan for the combat of fake news, but apparently that is not enough for Germany. In an interview Sunday morning, the German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas stressed that his country’s judges and public prosecutors belong to adoption of the law on the fake news spread via the social media networks (such as Facebook), and that it needed to happen immediately.

Maas has long pointed out that the anti-defamation laws in Germany are more stringent than those in the U.S., and as such, American tech companies must adhere to the laws of the country to work in the European countries. In an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Maas noted that free speech does not justify slander.

“Slander and malicious gossip are not covered under freedom of expression,” Maas said, in imitation of the calls of some of his German colleagues to tamp down on “incitement to hatred” circulating throughout Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. This was just a few days after other top officials called for the legislation to address hate and false news on social media platforms.

“Justice needs to prosecute that, even on the internet,” Maas added, “Anyone who tries to manipulate the political debate, with lies on the height (of the consequences).” In Germany, those consequences may take up to five years in prison.

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While Germany libel and slander laws are indeed far, some of the 218,000 cases filed in 2015 dealt with internet copies. But Maas says that needs to change. “We need to make full use of all legal powers at our disposal,” he said.

“Facebook is earning a lot of money with fake news,” Maas concluded. “A company that earns billions of the internet also has a social responsibility. Prosecutable slander must be removed immediately, as soon as reported. It should be made easier for the users to report fake news.”

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