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Germany begins enforcing new online hate speech rules

Social media companies may have been dreading the fireworks marking the start of the new year. On Jan. 1, Germany began enforcing strict rules that could fine companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube up to 50 million euros ($60 million) if they don't remove posts containing hate speech within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

The new hate speech rules, passed last June, require companies to maintain an "effective and transparent procedure for dealing with complaints" that users can access readily at anytime. Upon receiving a complaint, social media companies have to remove or block "obviously illegal content" within 24 hours, although they have up to a week when dealing with "complex cases."

Social media companies haven't been viewed too favorably in many countries due to the massive volume of hate content on their platforms. To fight that, Facebook in June said it removes 66,000 posts every week, saying it wants to do better but admitting the task is not easy. Last month, Twitter escalated its fight against hate, enforcing an updated policy that bans users from promoting violence and hate in their usernames and bios, and threatening to remove accounts if users tweeted hate speech, symbols and images.

German isn't the only country that wants social media companies to do more about hate speech. While the European Union acknowledged Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft for being better at the job, it said it managed to block twice the volume of hate content at a faster rate than those companies did in the beginning of the year. 

"We're committed to being part of the solution to illegal hate speech and extremist content online -- around the world, and in Germany, working within its new legal framework," a YouTube spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement. "We'll continue to invest heavily in teams and technology to allow us to go further and faster in removing content that breaks our rules or German law, and by working with government, law enforcement, civil society groups and other companies."

This article originally appeared on CNET, titled: "Germany kicks year off with strict online hate speech law."