It’s about to get a lot harder to tweet a racist diatribe in Germany. As per a new deal with the German government, hate speech posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Google will be flagged and removed from the view of German users within 24 hours.
All three companies have hate speech policies of their own already in place, but this agreement expands the definition of hateful content to include the standards set by the German government. Germany has particularly strict laws about encouraging racial hatred or violence–a nod to the country’s history of Nazism.
The news, issued by the German Justice Ministry, is light on details: Will Google search be wiped of results that include hate speech–or would the policy only apply to user-posted content on Google+? How exactly will the sites determine which types of content qualify as hate speech? A joint statement issued by the three companies and the Justice Ministry mentioned the use of “specialist teams” tasked with analyzing each piece of flagged content, but not much has been revealed about the mechanics of that process.
The issue of hate speech on the Internet has come to center stage in light of the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, as well as the ensuing debates about immigration, refugees, and civil rights. A recent call by presidential hopeful Donald Trump to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S. has further fueled the debate, with many labeling the billionaire’s remarks hate speech.
As offensive as Trump’s remarks are, Facebook isn’t treating his controversial proposal as hate speech. In a recent test of Facebook’s policy, Fast Company uncovered a double standard: While test posts containing the same language as Trump’s infamous speech were removed when flagged, the candidate’s original statement has remained on the social network. Trump’s speech, which some have compared to the rhetoric of the early days of Nazi Germany, presumably wouldn’t fly under the country’s new rules.