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Grace period ends for social networks in Germany on removing illegal content

A new law that requires major social networks in Germany to remove "obviously illegal" content from their platforms within 24 hours will now be enforced, the country's justice ministry has said.04 Jan 2018

The Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) came into force in October 2017 after being finalised by German law makers last summer, but social networks were given a transitional period until the end of 2017 to meet the new requirements.

Under the NetzDG, social networks are "obliged to provide effective and transparent complaints management for handling illegal content (hate crime and other criminal content)", the Federal Office of Justice (BfJ) said.

"Users should be able to report illegal content to the social network quickly and easily," the BfJ said. "The network must immediately acknowledge the complaint received. Obviously illegal contributions must be removed or blocked within 24 hours. In all other cases, a period of seven days applies."

Under the new framework, consumers can notify the BfJ of cases where a complaint procedure is not properly followed by the social networks. A special online form has been developed by the BfJ for this purpose. The BfJ is then responsible for determining "whether a penalty procedure is to be initiated", it said.

"All affected users can inform the BfJ that, despite their complaint to the social network, unlawful content was neither deleted nor blocked within the specified time limits," the BfJ said.

Fines of up to €50 million could be imposed on social networks that fail to comply with the requirements of the NetzDG.

Under the legislation, social networks can also be forced to hand over certain data to individuals who have been threatened, insulted or defamed by others on their platform.