By Lukas Leuzinger

European countries are passing more and more laws to prevent “hate speech” on the Internet. The Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), introduced in Germany in 2017, forces social media platforms to delete “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours; violations can result in fines of up to 50 million euros. In 2022, the EU passed the Digital Services Act , which requires tech companies to remove illegal content and limit risks posed by “harmful information”.

The sword of Damocles of legal consequences is constantly hanging over social networks. When in doubt, they would rather delete a little too much than risk a hefty fine. This is suggested by a new report by the think tank The Future of Free Speech ( PDF ).

The study authors examined several thousand deleted comments on Facebook and YouTube from Germany, France and Sweden. The data comes from ten large Facebook pages and YouTube channels run by media and politicians.

But how much of the deleted content was actually illegal? The Future of Free Speech had a random selection checked by legal experts from the three countries to see whether they violated the respective national laws.

The results are astonishing:

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