German legislators want to fine Facebook for fake news -

BERLIN, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- German lawmakers want new laws to prosecute social media outlets, including Facebook, for publishing fake news and hate messages.

Social Democratic Party parliamentary chairman Thomas Oppermann suggests fines as high as $519,000 for violations, according to an interview with German weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

"If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros."

He also said Facebook hasn't dealt with the problem enough. "Facebook did not avail itself of the opportunity to regulate the issue of complaint management itself," Oppermann said. "Now market dominating platforms like Facebook will be legally required to build a legal protection office in Germany that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

He said victims of fake news and hate messages should contact the platform in which they've been targeted

Other officials in Germany back Oppermann.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung the government would set "legal consequences" if the number of hate messages and false reports don't decrease. "We expect clear improvements in Facebook's removal practice. The standard must be German law," he told the newspaper.

Patrick Sensburg, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said in an interview with Deutsche Welle on Tuesday that the government should be "ratcheting up the statutory offenses" against fake news producers and "take action against the people who run these websites."

The ruling coalition wants a law before the 2017 elections.

"There has been only talk for too long. Now we in the coalition will take action at the beginning of next year," Volker Kauder, a senior member of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said in a statement on Friday.

A Facebook spokesman told The Hill the company wants to speak with German lawmakers about the issue.

"We take the issues raised very seriously. And we are engaging with key politicians and digital experts from all parties and relevant ministries in Germany interested in this matter," said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement emailed to The Hill.

Facebook has been taking its own steps to crack down on what is called fake news.

Last week, Facebook introduced tools to allow users to flag news to be checked by independent vetting organizations. But after some conservative media outlets, including Breitbart, were concerned that the fact-checking will not be objective, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said only the most "obvious hoaxes," that are "designed to get people to click on the stories and see ads" would be flagged.