According to Reuters, on Tuesday, a statement from Germany’s Federal Office of Justice said that by tallying only certain categories of complaints, the web giant had created a skewed picture of the extent of violations on its platform.
Facebook has been under fire following the Cambridge Analytica data breach in 2016, along with the role its platform played in election campaigns from the United States and Britain to the Philippines, and many have been critical of the social media giant. As a result, Facebook has been on a public relations drive to improve its image.
Facebook disagrees and said it had complied with its transparency obligations under the law, known as ‘NetzDG’, adding that some aspects of the law “lacked clarity.” In Germany, NetzDG, passed in June of 2017, is a law to combat “free speech” on social media platforms. To combat terrorist and/or extremist content, users can report complaints to have hateful or derogatory comments removed. Under Germany’s network transparency law, social media platforms are required to report the number of complaints of illegal content they have received. Facebook said it reserved the right to appeal the ruling after studying it.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht criticized the Company saying that the option for making a complaint under the transparency law was harder to find on Facebook than an option for complaining that a post violated the platform’s community standards. “It is quite clear that Facebook’s community standards do not correspond to the standards of the law,” she said.
In 2018, Facebook said it had received 1,048 complaints relating to illegal content on its platform over the second half of that year, according to its transparency report. This amount is minuscule compared to Twitter and Google’s YouTube video service of well over a quarter of a million complaints a year.
In response to the fine, a Facebook spokesman said, “We want to remove hate speech as quickly and effectively as possible and work hard to do so.” He adds, “We are confident our published NetzDG reports are in accordance with the law, but as many critics have pointed out, this law lacks clarity.”