German justice minister takes aim at Facebook over racist posts

Reuters , Thursday 27 Aug 2015

Germany's justice minister has accused Facebook of doing too little to thwart racist posts and hate comments on the social media platform and has proposed a meeting next month in Berlin with top officials from the company in Europe.

In a letter to Facebook public policy director Richard Allan in Dublin obtained by Reuters, Heiko Maas said he had received many complaints from users that their protests on racist posts have been ignored. He suggested a meeting in Berlin on Sept. 14.

"Facebook users are, in particular, complaining increasingly that your company is not effectively stopping racist 'posts' and comments despite their pointing out concrete examples," wrote Maas, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Maas's SPD party has faced a flood of racist emails and phone calls this week after its chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who is also conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy in Germany's ruling coalition, denounced the "mob" behind anti-refugee violence in the eastern town of Heidenau.

The town near Dresden was the scene of violent clashes last weekend as far-right militants, protesting against the arrival of around 250 refugees at a local shelter, pelted police with bottles and rocks, some shouting "Heil Hitler".

A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company took Maas's concerns seriously and that it was interested in meeting the justice minister.

"There is no room for racism on Facebook," she said in a statement. "That kind of content violates our community standards and we appeal to people not to use our platform for the spread of hatred ... We work hard every day to protect people on Facebook from abuse, hatred and bullying."

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