(This July 27 story corrects number of posts deleted to 362 in second paragraph)
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Facebook said it had deleted hundreds of offensive posts since a law banning online hate speech came into force in Germany at the start of the year that foresees fines of up to 50 million euros ($58 million) for failure to comply.
The social network received 1,704 complaints under the law, known in Germany as NetzDG, and removed 362 posts between January and June, Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president for global policy solutions said in a blog.
“Hate speech is not allowed on Facebook,” Allan said, adding that the network had removed posts that attacked people who were vulnerable for reasons including ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation.
Complaints covered a range of alleged offences under Germany’s criminal code, including insult, defamation, incitement to hatred and incitement to crime, the report said. Of the posts that were blocked, the largest number was for insult.
Facebook is less popular in Germany than other European countries, with only around two in five internet users logging on each month, according to researchers eMarketer.
That’s in part due to collective memories of hate-filled propaganda that date back to Germany’s 20th century history of Nazi and Communist rule that don’t always sit well with Facebook’s broad view on freedom of speech.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg faced criticism in Germany after saying in a recent interview that Facebook should not delete statements denying that the Holocaust happened - a crime in Germany. He later clarified his remarks.
Facebook has a dedicated team of 65 staff handling complaints under the NetzDG, Allan said, adding that this could be adjusted in line with the number of complaints.
From January to June, Facebook removed a total of around 2.5 million posts that violated its own community standards designed to prevent abusive behavior on the platform.
“We have taken a very careful look at the German law,” Allan wrote in his blog, which was published in German.
“That’s why we are convinced that the overwhelming majority of content considered hate speech in Germany, would be removed if it were examined to see whether it violates our community standards.”
A lawmaker for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Tankred Schipanski, said the NetzDG law - which requires social platforms to remove offensive posts within 24 hours - was doing the job for which it was intended.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Stephen Powell