Social networks in Germany will be facing fines of up to 50 mln euros if they fail to remove hateful content in time.
From October Facebook, YouTube and other platforms with more than 2 million users in Germany must remove posts containing hate speech and other criminal materials within 24 hours.
Content that is not clearly illegal, should be reviewed within seven days.
The new law is one of the worst of its kind worldwide as failure can lead to a fine of 5 million euros, which can grow to 50 mln euros depending on the severity of the violation.
In a statement, Facebook said it shares the aim of the German government to combat hate speech.
“We believe that the best solution would be found when the government, civil society and industry work together, and this law as it is now, will not improve efforts to address this important public health problem,” said the company.
German lawmakers voted in favor of the Act to regulate content on social networks after months of discussion on the last day before the summer vacation of the Bundestag.
The law was quickly condemned by human rights organizations and representatives of industry. They argue that tight deadlines are unrealistic and would lead to random censorship, as technology companies will err and deleted controversial content to avoid paying fines.
The law will come into force after the federal elections in Germany, which will be held in September.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas gave as an example Facebook, which has about 30 million users in Germany. Maas said that experience has shown that without political pressure “big platforms would not fulfill their obligations” for downloading illegal content.
According to him, the law “does not solve all problems,” but address the issue of hate crimes in the social networks that are becoming “an increasing problem in many countries.”
“There are real concerns that the law will incentivise social media companies to excessively delete content,” said Miko Hohmann, from the Global Public Policy Institute. “Faced with fines of up to €50 million, social media platforms will likely err on the side of caution and delete lawful content when in doubt.”