Germany Approves Bill against Children Marriage

The German cabinet approved a plan on Wednesday to fine social networks up to €50 million ($53 million) if they do not remove hateful postings quickly, prompting concerns the law could limit free expression.

The draft bill will still have to be considered by the German parliament and other bodies before it becomes a law.

The bill is a response to the onslaught of fake news that emerged during the United States 2016 presidential election.

The age of consent for all marriages in Germany was previously 16, with 18-year-olds allowed to marry 16-year-olds in some cases.

But Maas is also agitating for a European-level approach to tackling the spread of hate speech by online platforms, saying now that he will present the government's proposals for regulation to colleagues in the European Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers.

"We do not accept the fact that companies in Germany do not adhere to the law".

This legal tool, added the German official, seeks to cancel also marital alliances with children, carried out previously, as well as to prevent those that can carry out in the future.

Facebook won a court case last month after a Syrian refugee falsely accused of being a terrorist and attempted murderer in a series of xenophobic posts attempted to sue the social networking giant for damages.

"This will set binding standards for how companies running social networks must handle complaints and require them to delete criminal content", Maas said.

"We work very hard to remove illegal content from our platform and are determined to work with others to solve this problem", the company said in a statement.

Mr Maas said Twitter only took down one per cent and Facebook 39 per cent of the content reported by users deemed to flout Germany's anti-hate speech laws. However, both the companies and consumer activist groups are anxious that this forces social networks to make judgment calls on whether or not something is illegal, rather than having the court decide. "Therefore in future, if it doesn't get better, we will impose high fines on these companies", Maas told German broadcaster ARD's "Morgenmagazin" show.

Germany has specific hate speech laws which criminalize certain types of speech, such as incitement to racial violence.

  • Jon Douglas