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Germany's 'Hate Speech' Law May Evolve Into Wide Censorship - Watchdog

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Germany's NetzDG (Network Enforcement Act), which requires social media networks to remove offensive content, could result in extensive censorship and should, therefore, be reversed, an international rights watchdog said Wednesday.

"The new German law that compels social media companies to remove hate speech and other illegal content can lead to unaccountable, overbroad censorship and should be promptly reversed," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

According to Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at HRW, both governments and the public have valid concerns about the proliferation of illegal or abusive content online, however, the new German law is "fundamentally flawed."

"It [the law] is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal," Michalski is quoted as saying in the statement.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. - Sputnik International
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According to the HRW, the German law sets an example for other countries, which may also force social media companies, threatened with fines, to restrict speech on the Internet. The HRW noted that at least three countries — Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines — have already cited the German law as a positive example.

READ MORE: AfD: German Hate Speech Law Destroys Freedom of Speech, Bans Political Dissent

NetzDG came into effect on January 1 after an "adaptation period" for social networks since October. In accordance with the law, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Google and YouTube may face up to $60 million in fines if the offensive content is not deleted from their respective platforms within 24 hours.

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