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Social media companies could face huge fines from German hate speech law

  • Germany starts enforcing a law that fines social media companies for not deleting hate speech on their platforms.
  • Internet companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube-parent Google will now have just a 24-hour window to remove offending posts.
  • The law carries fines of up to $60 million if companies fail to remove posts that are "obviously illegal."
The silhouette of Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., is seen during the Oculus Connect 4 product launch event in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The silhouette of Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., is seen during the Oculus Connect 4 product launch event in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017.

Germany has started enforcing a controversial hate speech law that carries hefty fines for social media companies that fail to quickly remove objectionable content.

The law, which was passed in June, went into effect Monday, officially granting internet companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube-parent Google just a 24-hour window to remove offending posts once a user flags them for review.

The law carries fines of up to $60 million if companies fail to remove posts that are "obviously illegal" within 24 hours. It grants a week to consider more ambiguous cases.

The Network Enforcement Act, colloquially referred to as the "Facebook law," also includes defamatory posts and incitements of violence.

All three companies have previously said they'll cooperate with the new restrictions.

Twitter declined to comment Tuesday on how the company would operate under the new law. Google did not immediately return request for comment.

"We're committed to removing hate speech any time we become aware of it," Facebook said in a June statement on the company's blog.

Given the history of the Nazi era, Germany is especially sensitive to hate crimes.