Facebook has promised to step up its efforts to take down racist and xenophobic content from its German website. The assurance from the U.S. firm comes after requests by several officials Germany, which is witnessing a massive influx of refugees, and is struggling to tackle the problem.
How Facebook plans to deal with the issue?
On Monday, in a meeting between Germany’s Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, and Facebook executives, it was decided that the U.S. firm will work on identification and removal of any hateful or xenophobic content, and for this it will look for help from an Internet watchdog, according to a report from Reuters.
Maas told a news conference in Berlin, “This is a joint task for the whole of society, and I am very grateful to Facebook that they are taking their responsibly in this joint task.”
For dealing with offensive or prohibited content, Facebook typically relies on user reports, but now the firm has partnered with a German watchdog group, Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers. This group actively monitors online hate speech. Facebook is also planning to create a task force that will handle the responsibility of examining the issue of hate speech, and will invite community groups, companies and politicians for discussions on the topic. The company also plans to run a campaign challenging xenophobic and similar views.
A few days back, Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the issue of racist comments and hate posts on the German version of the social network, and asked Facebook to take some strict measures to combat these kind of posts.
Policing social media difficult
Facebook’s policy manager in Germany, Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, said conversations on Facebook represent the diversity of a community of more than one billion people, and “It is a constant challenge to balance the interests of this diverse population and we are always looking for ways to make our policies and processes more effective and sensitive to the concerns of local communities.”
Policing social networks across international borders is a challenge as there are different standards for what is considered free speech. For example, criminal laws in Germany ban public incitement of hatred against a segment of a population based on its ethnic, racial, national or religious backgrounds. Punishment of five years is possible in case the law is violated.