German Federal Minister Of Justice Introduces New Bill Against Criminal Content On Social Networks

On 14 March 2017, the German Federal Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, announced a new bill aimed at improving the application of the law to social networks (Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Verbesserung der Rechtsdurchsetzung in sozialen Netzwerken; Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz – NetzDG, the Bill). The Bill strengthens the rights of individuals who are affected by 'hate speech' or 'fake news' placed by third parties on social networks. The Bill also sets out binding standards for an effective and transparent complaint management system and establishes a duty for social networks to issue quarterly reports on their handling of user complaints about criminal content.

Scope of and definitions under Bill

The Bill shall apply to internet platform providers that enable users to make content available to, or share content with, other users (Social Networks). Social Networks with fewer than 2 million registered users in Germany shall be exempt from the obligation to (1) issue reports and (2) establish and implement a complaint management system.

The Bill shall apply to Criminal Content, i.e., content which is in breach of the following sections of the German Criminal Code:

Section 86 (D issemination of propaganda material of unconstitutional organisations) Section 86a (Using symbols of unconstitutional organisations) Section 90 (Defamation of the President of the Federation) Section 111 (Public incitement to crime) Section 126 (Breach of the public peace by threatening to commit offences) Section 130 (Incitement to hatred) Section 140 (Rewarding and approving of offences) Section 166 (Defamation of religions, religious and ideological associations) Section 185 to 187 (Insult; Defamation; Intentional defamation) Section 241 (Threatening the commission of a felony ) Section 269 (Forgery of data intended to provide proof) Effective complaint management system

Under the Bill, Social Networks are required to implement and maintain an effective complaint management system, and in particular:

Offer their users a straightforward complaint procedure Acknowledge user complaints in due course and assess whether any content complained about is Criminal Content Block or delete content which is...

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