Germany’s Federal Office of Justice (BfJ) has launched legal proceedings against Twitter for allegedly failing to effectively address illegal content on its platform.
According to the country’s Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), social media companies with over two million registered users in Germany must respond to user reports of prohibited content and remove it within a set timeframe.
The BfJ accuses Twitter of violating this law by not adequately responding to user reports of hate speech, personal threats, defamation, and antisemitism and failing to remove such content within the legally mandated timeframes.
The BfJ has initiated fine proceedings against Twitter based on several complaints of illegal content reported to the authority that the company failed to remove despite user complaints. The content in question was related to one individual and consisted of similar, unjustified, defamatory statements of opinion. The BfJ claims that Twitter’s complaint management system has systemic failures and that the company has violated its legal obligation to deal with complaints about illegal content.
Twitter is also facing a lawsuit in Germany over its content moderation practices, brought by the digital rights campaign group HateAid and the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS). They allege that the company failed to remove six pieces of content reported for antisemitism, which violates its policies on antisemitism.
The BfJ has allowed Twitter to respond to its complaints, and the company could face fines of up to €50 million if found guilty of violating the NetzDG. Failure to comply with the rules can result in hefty fines, which have been enough to force other companies to act in the past.
German Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann has stated that “Platforms must not simply accept it when their services are misused to disseminate criminal content.”
Twitter has faced criticism over its content moderation practices and cut back on staff dealing with hate speech and harassment. However, CEO Elon Musk has claimed that the company will abide by local laws.
In addition to the legal action, the European Union has reportedly warned Twitter that it needs to hire more content moderation staff if it is to comply with upcoming regulations under the Digital Services Act, set to come into force in 2022.