German authorities have fined Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) 2 million euros ($2.3 million) for inaccurately reporting the amount of complaints about illegal content on its platform. Under the Network Enforcement Act, which took effect last year in Germany, social media platforms are required to publish reports detailing the number of complaints of illegal content they have received every six months. Germany’s Federal Office of Justice said that Facebook was under-reporting the number complaints received.
Reports show that Facebook appears to have reported less illegal content than some rival social media networks. For the second half of 2018, Facebook reported receiving 1,048 complaints relating to illegal content on its platform. By contrast, Twitter and Google’s YouTube video service both reported well over a quarter of a million complaints for the whole year in their transparency reports.
Newly appointed Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht pointed to Facebook’s practices for the discrepancy. She said that the option for making a complaint under the transparency law was harder to find on Facebook than an option for complaining that a post violated the platform’s community standards. It stands to reason that most people would make their report using the easier to find option, allowing Facebook to create a skewed picture of the extent of violations on its platform.
Germany has some of the strictest privacy and hate speech laws in the world, along with some of the strictest social media regulations. Facebook said it had complied with its transparency obligations under the law and that it reserved the right to appeal the ruling after studying it. In its statement, Facebook commented that some aspects of the law “lacked clarity”.