German Judiciary Slams Facebook Over Fake News, Mark Zuckerberg Responds

Facebook is being flooded with fake news and Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to be doing enough about it.

There’s a reason for this, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas told a local magazine, and that’s because the social media network is “earning an awful lot of money with fake news.”

“A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility,” he said. “Prosecutable defamation must be deleted immediately, once reported. It needs to be made easier for users to report fake news.”

Maas said that Facebook needs to follow the defamation laws in Germany, which are more severe compared to other countries like the US. That’s why he’s calling for a crackdown on fake news on social media sites.

He said freedom of speech does not cover defamation and gossip that is meant to malign a person’s reputation. Those who violate the laws can face five years imprisonment.

“Justice authorities must prosecute that, even on the internet,” Maas added. “Anyone who tries to manipulate the political discussion with lies needs to be aware (of the consequences).”

Maas expressed concern that fake news on Facebook might affect the results of the parliamentary elections where Conservative Angela Merkel is expected to seek her fourth term as German Chancellor.

Accordingly, almost 220,000 cases of defamation were filed in Germany’s courts last year. However, a very insignificant number of these are online libels or slanders, the report added.

The power of Facebook and other social media sites to influence the election was raised during the US elections this year.

Zuckerberg had to upload a long Facebook post in November this year after accusations have surfaced about fake news contributing to a Donald Trump win during the US presidential elections.

The Facebook CEO said that they understand their role in a democracy and that’s providing people with the platform to air their grievances and share their thoughts. However, in giving people voice, sometimes there are things that others might not agree with.

“After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading,” he wrote. “These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here.”

Zuckerberg also insisted that less than one percent of the content on Facebook can be categorized as fake news or hoax and that these “are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics,” which makes it unlikely that they influenced the outcome of the elections.

“That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook,” he added. “Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.”

Meanwhile, in other news, Facebook has unveiled a new status option which makes it more personal for the users who want to share content with family and friends. As the name suggests, users can change the color of the background of their text status instead of the usual and boring white color.

The report claimed that the colored status background will be rolled out in the next few days. For now, however, the ability to create one will be limited to Android users. But everybody can see the new feature on their news feeds regardless of the platform. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We’re rolling out a change to help people make their text posts more visual.”

[Featured Image by David Ramos/Getty Images]