Germany is planning to impose hefty fines against Facebook for each time it fails to remove “fake news’ from its site within 24 hours. The fines will be a whopping €500,000 for every item falling into the false or hate speech category.
Facebook, in the past, has worked with organizations in Germany to do just that – to remove offensive content – however, the nation’s plan to impose fines for disseminating fake news is a slippery slope towards a form of censorship, “as ‘fake news is often a matter of opinion,” reports Claire Bernish.
“The move is partly in response to fears that fake news posts could have an affect on the German parliamentary elections taking place in 2017, according to the Financial Times. Facebook has repeatedly said since the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump in the US that fake news on its site, which has roughly 180 million users in the US and Canada, could not have affected the election,” the Quartz reported.
The Facebook blame very quickly led to a finger-pointing of the cause of fake news towards those in independent, alternative and right viewed media outlets, rather than considering the inadequacies of an election enabling a Donald Trump presidency, instead.
Deutsche Welle conveyed that ‘victims’ of hate speech and fake news, under the German plans, could contact Facebook requesting immediate action. If action isn’t taken within the 24 hour period, the fine would be imposed.
Arguably, this leads to the ‘fake news’ question: What is considered fake news? Will this amount to a “blatant censorship of all ideas not in lock step with the neoliberal establishment,” Bernish asks. And rightly so. Does this mean one opinion is fake while another is valued all because it isn’t popular? Does Facebook really modify an election outcome and is it really the fake news that sways opinion? Realistically, no. Maybe, just maybe in the instance of the US elections, people were just plain pissed off with the status quo… by I digress.
It’s a dangerous precedent set. Opinion has suddenly become the enemy – and what constitutes the enemy – no one is really willing to elaborate. It’s a law against free speech, the media and the citizen.
Publishing truthful content is always the end goal for a journalist worth their salt. Sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes the report isn’t favourable – and yes, some are blatantly dishonest. But by what tools, opinions and methods is the fake news determined? Hate speech is easier to decipher, but news?
This step will no doubt leach its way into the editor’s room where self-censorship becomes the norm. The mildest forms of censorship are the inches that will eventually give way to miles. Do you really want an