Do lawmakers get to decide what is, or is not, fake news?

The real challenge for democracies around the world is to decide who determines what is – or is not- fake news? At the moment, legislators are taking the leading role in deciding. This, for one, has had unsettling repercussions in Europe.

In January of 2018, a German satirical magazine’s Twitter account was blocked after it parodied anti-Muslim comments. Titanic magazine was mocking Beatrix von Storch, a member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who accused police of trying “to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men” by posting a tweet in Arabic. Twitter briefly suspended the magazine’s account and prosecutors are examining if the comments amount to incitement to hatred.

A private company based in the United States decides the boundaries of freedom of the press and opinion in Germany. – Frank Ueberall, DJV Chairman

It is assumed that these actions were a direct result of a law that came into full effect on January 1, 2018. The new law can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on social media sites that fail to remove hate speech [and fake news] promptly. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are scrambling to adapt to the law, and its implementation is being closely watched after warnings that the threat of fines could prompt websites to block more content than necessary. It would seem that Twitter, for one, has become less even-handed in its approach to free speech.

Many of the violations covered by the bill are highly dependent on context, context which platforms are in no position to assess. – David Kaye, the U.N. Special Rapporteur to the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Association of German Journalists (DJV) said the Twitter move [against the Titanic magazine] amounted to censorship, adding that the organization had warned law-makers of impending danger when the law was created in 2017.

Essentially, democrats are using very undemocratic means to “protect” democracy. This is unsettling because only authoritarian regimes try to control what the truth is.

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