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Facebook hit with fine for under-reporting illegal content complaints in Germany

Tyrone Stewart

Facebook app iconGerman authorities have issued Facebook with a €2m ($2.3m/£1.77m) fine for breaching the country’s internet transparency law by under-reporting the number of complaints it received about illegal content.

Under the German law, known as ‘NetzDG’, social media platforms must release a reports outlining the number of complaints they have received about illegal content. However, according to Germany’s Federal Office of Justice (BfJ), Facebook’s reported figures were heavily skewed because it had only been reporting complaints received through a channel specifically for illegal content flagging related to the transparency law.

Facebook has two channels for complaints in Germany: its standard one for flagging breaches of the platform’s community standards and one for NetzDG reporting. Complaints filed via the NetzDG avenue are the ones which Facebook reports, however, the BfJ doesn’t think this channel is clear enough. Due to this lack of clarity, the BfJ is under the impression that a large number of the complaints received via Facebook’s main reporting function would actually fall under NetzDG and, therefore, must form part of the transparency report.

The transparency report released by Facebook for the second half of 2018 only reported receiving 1,048 complaints. To put this into perspective, both Twitter and YouTube received more than 250,000 complaints across the whole of the year.  

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