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Reading between the lines and the numbers – An analysis of the first NetzDG reports

Author: Heldt, A.
Published in: Internet Policy Review, 8(2)
Year: 2019
Type: Academic articles
DOI: 10.14763/2019.2.1398

Approaches to regulating social media platforms and the way they moderate content has been an ongoing debate within legal and social scholarship for some time now. European policy makers have been asking for faster and more effective responses from the various social media platforms to explain how they might deal with the dissemination of hate speech and disinformation. After a failed attempt to push social media platforms to self-regulate, Germany adopted a law called the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) which forces platforms to ensure that “obviously unlawful content” is deleted within 24 hours. It contains an obligation that all platforms that receive more than 100 complaints per calendar year about unlawful content must publish bi-annual reports on their activities. This provision is designed to provide clarification on the way content is moderated and complaints handled on social networks. After the NetzDG came into force, initial reports reveal the law’s weak points, predominantly in reference to their low informative value. When it comes to important takeaways regarding new regulation against hate speech and more channeled content moderation, the reports do not live up to the expectations of German lawmakers. This paper analyses the legislative reasoning behind the reporting obligation, the main outcomes of the reports from the major social networks (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) and why the reports are unsuitable to serve as grounds for further development of the NetzDG or any similar regulation.

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Amélie Heldt

Former Associated Researcher: Platform Governance

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