Skip to content
Naked Security Naked Security

Germany threatens Facebook with €500,000 fine per fake news post

Berlin lawmakers warn of tough new regime to crack down as Facebook steps up search for a head of news

Germany’s had it up to here with Facebook being left to work out the fake news problem on its own.

The time for talking is over, Thomas Oppermann told Der Spiegel last week.  Oppermann, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary chairman said it is time to move on to new laws and fat fines when social media platforms don’t remove offending messages after 24 hours:

Facebook did not avail itself of the opportunity to regulate the issue of complaint management itself. Now market dominating platforms like Facebook will be legally required to build a legal protection office in Germany that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

According to the German news site Deutsche Welle, lawmakers in Berlin are mulling a policy that would enable victims of fake news and hate messages to contact the German headquarters of Facebook or of other social media platforms – don’t have one? Time to get one! – to prove that they’d been targeted and to ask for action, he said.

Otherwise, social media platforms could be looking at stiff penalties, Oppermann said:

If, after appropriate examination, Facebook does not delete the offending message within 24 hours, it should expect individual fines of up to €500,000 [$521,675].

The plan is to fast-track the new rules: DW reports that the ruling coalition wants to get a law in place before next year’s elections, and there are plans to start debate immediately after the Christmas break.

However, Germany’s federal association of newspaper publishers, the BDZV, does not love the country’s media being lumped in with social networks. It’s come out against expanding press laws to include social media sites, saying that they’re not media. Rather, they’re more along the lines of telecoms, a BDZV spokeswoman told DW, echoing Facebook’s own rationalization that it’s simply a neutral platform to present news to users, not an actual cog in the news-making machinery itself:

They should be viewed and regulated like telecom companies which are not responsible for what people are saying into the handset.

Germany’s tough talk came just one day after Facebook announced new tools to fight hoaxes and fake news. The new tools include easier reporting and the ability to flag stories as “disputed”.

It’s pulling Poynter into the mix: Facebook says it’s started to work with third-party fact-checking organizations that have signed on to a code of principles developed by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), an alliance of fact-checkers hosted by Poynter.

Unsurprisingly in these polemic days, criticism of Poynter immediately sprouted after Facebook named it as a player in its new fake-news move.

Time to speed up development of a “more formal vetting mechanism”, said Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the IFCN, following Facebook’s announcement:

Given the heightened importance of the code – I do not take lightly the additional filtering role it will now play – existing plans to establish a more formal vetting mechanism behind the code of principles will be accelerated.

There are currently 43 signatories. Poynter’s asked them all to come up with a full report of their vetting process within the next few weeks.

If the fact-checkers identify a story as fake, Facebook will flag it as disputed and will link to an article explaining the rationale. Disputed stories may also appear lower in News Feed.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s careers page now has a new listing: it’s looking for somebody to be its head of news.

Who in their right mind would want that job, given all the stakeholders they’d have to answer to at Facebook?

Dan Gillmor, Professor of Practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, said that this is probably “the most important journalism job in the world” and that it’s bound to attract “a lot of excellent people”.

I’d guess, even though it would be a difficult, often thankless, and possibly futile job for the reasons you suggest, that you’ll see someone of great talent and credibility in the position.

No doubt. Here’s to wishing the eventual hire all the luck in the world as Facebook grapples with post-election trauma in the US.

Luck, and hopefully a decent grasp of German.


Laughable at best. Who determines what a fake news post is? I’ve seen the mainstream media put out plenty of fake news stories. Hands up don’t shoot, fake news, Benghazi happened because of a youtube video, fake news, Russian’s hacked the election, fake news. If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor, fake news.
I believe someone from Germany has made attempts to control the media in the past, oh yeah his name was Hitler!


Godwin’s Law!

For the uninitiated: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1 … there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned Hitler has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress”


I was merely pointing out an ironic reference of Germany and Hitler, seeing as how Hitler was in fact from Germany and now Germany apparently wants to control it’s news feeds. But hey don’t bother refuting any of the legitimate points I made.

Godwin’s law is must be favored by a particular political party, seeing as how they often compare Hitler to the PEOTUS.


The pedant in me feels compelled to point out that Hitler was from Austria…

As it happens I agree that media companies and governments deciding what is and isn’t fake news sounds like a bad idea for all sorts of reasons, not least because that they are happy to create it and/or benefit from it when it suits them.

The opportunity to invoke Godwin’s law was just too good to pass up though. I think that invoking Hitler was unnecessary – your point stands without it and modern day Germany doesn’t bare comparison with Nazi Germany. This isn’t a sign of some slide back to Facist dictatorship and the German government of 1933 – 1945 isn’t exactly the only one with a taste for propaganda.

This is just the usual political knee-jerk: *something* must be done.

[Please note that Jon’s provided examples of what he views as fake news from main stream media outlets. They’ve been removed because as a matter of course we don’t allow links in comments. I violated that policy in my own comment and set a bad example (since removed), sorry about that]


I thought the OP’s mention of A. Hitler was acceptable (though I would have avoided it myself) because I didn’t read it as a comparison. Godwin’s Law, as far as I am aware and for what it is worth, is meant to apply to a yeah-but-no-but interchange about the behaviour of X that ends up with a simile inviting you to infer that “X is Hitler”. There was no interchange or discussion here – this comment wasn’t the end of an innings full of an acrimonous debates but a remark that simply opened the batting.

So I read the original comment here quite differently. I saw it as a stark reminder of what you might call “the law of unintended consequences”, which is where a legal framework instituted with the best will in the world ends up creating the possibility for future abuse that would best have been avoided.

For example, I can see how this regulation could be exploited to create what is essentially a DDoS: post fake news items, then report them, and then sit back while a panel of experts try very quickly to decide whether they are “fake enough” that we need protecting from our own lack of critical thought by having them expurgated from the record. Soon there won’t be any time left for those experts to do anything but act as high-speed controllers of what gets reported.

In short: I’d have preferred not to see A, Hitler mentioned, but I don’t think Godwin’s Law applies here.


Given the amount of fake news published by traditional news sources on both sides in the recent election, do you think there will be any news left at all when this is finished?


Can we just ban Time Warner (owns CNN) and News Corp (owns Fox) from earth? that would get rid of most of the fake news in one step.


Most sane people can figure out fake/hoax news on their own. The most important thing is to not share or retweet until YOU get it truly verified. Big problem is people want their news FAST. They seem to not care if it’s accurate.

Make sure you know the satire sites! I’ve seen people share news from The Onion swearing it is true. But I do foresee a lot of dumb or rabid Facebook users having their accounts closed or suspended. And they should!

Take the time to learn which sites are pro-right and which are pro-left. I take everything from Occupy Democrats and Breitbart (just 2 examples) with a grain of salt and never share or retweet them.

As Paul Harvey used to say, make sure you know “the rest of the story.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get the latest updates in your inbox.
Which categories are you interested in?
You’re now subscribed!