Twitter faces a possible $33 billion in fines, more than the entire company is reportedly worth, in Germany, for failing to remove hate speech. Meanwhile, owner Elon Musk continues to insist hate speech isn’t increasing on the platform.
Germany’s Federal Justice Office, or BfJ, announced on April 4 that it had begun the process to fine Twitter for repeatedly failing to address complaints about content that violates Germany’s Network Enforcement Act. Known as NetzDG, the law requires social media platforms with more than two million followers to remove content that includes hate speech, abuse, threats, and antisemitism. Under the law, each individual case can result in a fine of up to 50 million euros.
More than 600 cases of illegal hate speech on Twitter have been reported to the BfJ, according to TechCrunch. The German government is only acting on a handful, but if it expands its investigation to all of them, the fines could reach an eye-popping total of 30 billion euros, or about $33 billion.
Musk bought Twitter in October for $44 billion, but in a recent email to employees, he said the company is worth just $20 billion. Since taking over, Musk has scrambled to cut costs and increase revenue. This apparently includes letting everyone come back on Twitter, including Nazis, and purchase verification badges; firing 75 percent of staff; selling everything in the company’s San Francisco headquarters; and just not paying rent.
Hate speech has also flourished on Twitter since Musk took the reins. Aside from the potential German fines, a report released in December by Media Matters and GLAAD analyzed tweets from nine prominent right-wing figures and accounts and found that in the first month under Musk’s leadership, there was a 1,200 percent increase in retweets of posts that use the word “groomer,” a homophobic slur. The social media research group National Contagion Research Institute found that in the 12 hours after Musk bought Twitter, use of the n-word increased almost 500 percent.