German Probe

Report: Facebook Executives Investigated for Hate Speech

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Mark Zuckerberg has done his best to soothe Germany's concerns, travelling to Berlin earlier this year. Source: DPA

A state prosecutor in Munich is looking into whether Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and other senior managers at the world’s largest social network are guilty of tolerating hate speech for failing to police their site, Reuters reported Friday.

A spokesman for the Munich prosecutor’s office confirmed the investigation to Reuters, but declined to give further details. German magazine Der Spiegel said the complaint was prompted by a German lawyer who had filed a complaint in September against 10 Facebook managers.

Chan-jo Jun, an attorney in Würzburg in southern Germany, filed the complaint after Facebook failed to expunge posts that he said tolerated murder, violence and denial of the Holocaust, the lawyer said in a statement on his website.

Because of its past, Germany imposes strict free-speech restrictions. Representations of the Nazi swastika, for example, are still legally forbidden and punishable as criminal offenses.

The lawsuit may test whether internet giants like Facebook can be held accountable for utterances made by its millions of members around the world, which are also displayed to users in Germany.

Other Facebook managers under investigation include Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, chief European lobbyist Richard Allan and his Berlin-based colleague Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, among others, the lawyer said.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas has given the U.S.-based social network until March 2017 to crack down on hate speech on its website, which is also the largest social network in Germany.

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