legal framework

Following increased pressure to protect the audience from harmful content, both large and small online platforms that mainly host User Generated Content have come under intense scrutiny from governments around the globe.
Depending on their size and capacity, different online platforms deploy two content moderation models to tackle this issue:

  1. Centralized content moderation – using this approach, companies establish a wide range of content policies they apply on a global scale with exceptions carved out to safeguard their compliance with laws in different jurisdictions. These content policies are implemented by centralized moderators who are trained, managed, and directed as such. Facebook and YouTube are examples of big internet platform companies using this model.
  2. Decentralized content moderation – this model tasks the users with the responsibility of enforcing the policies themselves. Being diverse by nature, this approach mainly enables platforms like Reddit to give their users a set of global policies that serve as a guiding framework.

Centralized models help companies to promote consistency in the adoption of content policies while decentralized models allow a more localized, context-specific, and culture-specific moderation to take place encouraging a diversity of opinions on a platform.
After failed attempts to push social media platforms to self-regulate, the German parliament approved the

Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) on 30th June 2017. Also known as the “hate speech law” the NetzDG took full effect as from 1st. January 2018. The NetzDG directs platforms to delete terrorism, hate speech, and other illegal contents within 24 hours of being flagged on a platform or otherwise risk hefty fines.

While the NetzDG encourages transparency and accountability of social media platforms it also raises concerns regarding the violation of the e-Commerce Directive and fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression. In a statement that was sent to the German parliament in 2017, Facebook considered the NetzDG draft submitted in 2017, to be incompatible with the German constitution by stating, “It would have the effect of transferring responsibility for complex legal decisions from public authorities to private companies”. (Source: businessinsider.com)

Following criticism from a wide array of activists, social networks, politicians, the EU commission, the UN, and scholars, the NetzDG is a controversial law that should be adapted with a grain of salt. Unintentionally, Germany created a prototype for Global Online Censorship from highly authoritarian states who have adapted the NetzDG to manipulate the freedom of speech on the internet by pushing their illiberal agendas camouflaged as moderation policies.

Find out more about this topic

This article is part of a series looking at legal frameworks around the world. The series will focus on countries legal amendments to moderate user-generated content in the following countries: U.S, U.K., Turkey, Australia, Nigeria, and China.

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