The fact that a dangerous domino effect lies dormant in social networks is not only made clear by problems such as hate speech or calls for violence. Terrorism has also been able to gain momentum in some cases through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As a result, the EU recently launched an obligation for platform operators to delete such content within 60 minutes. Germany is now on the verge of implementing a corresponding law. This provides for partly severe sanctions for providers who do not comply with this deadline.
Infractions could result in fines of up to 5 million euros
An implementation of the EU obligation to immediately delete terrorist content has been feared by platforms for some time. After all, EU policy already let it be known that in some cases you have to fear severe penalties if you do not delete terrorist content in time. Germany now seems to be leading the way in enforcing the “EU Regulation to Combat the Spread of Terrorist Content Online.” After all, the EU regulation would have taken effect even without the involvement of German legislation. In this country, however, they want to go one step further in the fight against the spread of radical views.
Propaganda videos or other media with terrorist content are to be deleted within an hour. Otherwise, even smaller platform operators could face horrendous fines of up to 5 million euros. Before the Bundesrat was to approve the new rules, the Bundestag debated individual points the week before last. In the process, the parliament amended some passages that had already been laid down by the government. This is an astonishing amount of work for a law that is not actually needed because of the existence of the EU regulation. However, both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat are very concerned that the deletion obligation be implemented as uniformly as possible in the Federal Republic.
BKA is pivotal in the EU
For some time now, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has been following with belly-aching that terrorist organizations are increasingly using platforms on the Internet. Here they go on the hunt for like-minded people and possibly even new members. As a result, since the beginning of June there has been a Europe-wide obligation for the relevant providers to delete terrorist content. All that is required is an order from an authorized authority in an EU member state. The corresponding deletion must then take place as quickly as possible. Not only in Germany, but also in the entire EU, the BKA is to be used as the lead authority.
EU decides 60 minutes deletion time
If one takes a look at the corresponding law, it is above all §6 that is of great importance. Here not only the different fines are fixed. On top of that, the legislator defines at this point who is guilty of an administrative offense. For example, a provider is guilty of an administrative offense if he negligently or intentionally fails to ensure that terrorist content is deleted within one hour. However, for this time limit to be set in motion, an order must have been issued by an authorized authority. However, in order to preserve freedom of expression nonetheless, the opposite behavior must also be ensured. This means that platform operators must restore content that has been wrongly deleted by order.
Otherwise, there is also the threat of a penalty. In total, §6 provides for 20 different administrative offenses, all of which can be punished with a fine. The amount of the fine depends not only on the severity of the offense. The legislator also wants to take the size of the provider into account. Small platform operators, for example, could face fines of up to 5 million euros. It will be more expensive for the “big fish” like Meta. Companies with a total annual turnover of over 125 million would have to pay up to 4% of their annual turnover. For Meta, that would mean a penalty in the billions.
Important role of the Federal Network Agency
The Federal Network Agency has become increasingly important in recent weeks, especially on the issue of gas security. But the agency is, of course, also responsible for telecommunications and, by extension, the Internet. Accordingly, it is also to be given a weighty role in enforcing this law. In particular, it is to be the authority that sanctions the corresponding providers. To this end, it is the task of the authority to monitor the platforms to a certain extent. Collecting annual reports is essential for this. Here, the authority must be able to track the extent to which a platform has complied with deletion instructions and when it has not. Whether the Federal Network Agency will be up to this challenging task is questionable.
Criticism from industry associations
But the new law does not seem to be going down well with everyone. Industry associations in particular warn that small platforms in particular would have to fear for their existence in some cases. After all, they can’t just pay a maximum fine of 5 million euros out of coffee money. In the worst case, this could lead to a further strengthening of large Internet corporations such as Meta and Google. After all, these not only have a far greater capital from which they could draw. Only in June, the Facebook parent company had to pay a fine of $650 million in Illinois. On top of that, they have more workers or modern artificial intelligence at their disposal to make appropriate deletions.