Germany criticizes Facebook for fomenting xenophobia, says Europe is rich and can deal with refugees
The Berlin-based daily Tagesspiegel reported yesterday that German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said Facebook is not acting strongly enough against users who disseminate hatred of refugees through the social networking site. Maas has contacted the leadership of Facebook's European division and wants to discuss rectifying the situation with them.
Maas claims that Facebook itself has pledged to remove posts in which people attack others because of race, religion or nationality. "It appears, however, that these standards are not being enforced in practice, even though such statements regularly meet the definition of the crime of defamation based on nation or race," Tagesspiegel cites a letter sent by the minister to Facebook.
The Justice Minister also alleges that Facebook is applying a double standard when removing posts. The social networking site automatically removes any post featuring naked people, but racist or xenophobic posts remain accessible on Facebook even when other users warn Facebook they are there, according to the minister.
Maas emphasized that he is not interested in restricting freedom of speech. "The Internet, however, is not a space where no law whatsoever applies. It is not a space where criminally punishable statements and racist slogans can be disseminated unchecked. It is not possible to tolerate Internet users who promote racism and xenophobia, that is a poor understanding of the principle of tolerance," he said.
The Justice Minister asked Facebook representatives for a meeting during which he would like to agree on options for resolving the situation. He believes the meeting should take place in mid-September.
Merkel says a rich Europe must take care of those who fear for their lives
Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Vienna, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her view of the news that several dozen dead refugees had been found in Austria. She also declared that the refugee crisis must be rapidly resolved through European solidarity.
"We are, naturally, all shocked by this horrible report," she said. "It reminds us that we must rapidly resolve the immigration problem in a European spirit, which means in the spirit of solidarity."
Merkel also said the EU is obliged to aid warring parties with finding peace and must also take care of people who fear for their lives. "I am firmly convinced that Europe is a wealthy continent and is in a state where it can deal with this," the Chancellor said.
In an interview last week for the ZDF station, Merkel said that while the reception of hundreds of thousands of immigrants is a big challenge for Germany, the country is not overwhelmed by the current wave of refugees. She believes that dealing with the current crisis is just another "big European project" that will demonstrate whether Europe is actually capable of coordinated action.
German politicians, of course, have been sharply criticizing the EU precisely on this matter for what they see as its insufficiently coordinated, slow response to the migration wave. "The EU's indecision [on this issue] is unbearable," declared German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller.
Other highly-placed German politicians such as Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are also criticizing the current situation, in which the entire burden of the refugee crisis is being borne by just a few Member States. Gabriel and Steinmeier are asking for the introduction of binding quotas for refugee reception, calibrated according to the options available in each country.
Müller is also asking the EU to approve a program of immediate aid worth more than EUR 10 billion through which the Member States on the EU's external borders will create emergency reception centers. Another problem he believes the EC should correct is the fact that each state takes a different approach toward refugees.
"In Germany we have proportionate humanitarian standards for [asylum-seekers'] allowances, accommodation, medical care, etc. Many EU countries have more limited standards. Dignified accommodation must be available for refugees in all EU states, not just Germany," he said.
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