After France, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks brought-in near zero-tolerance rules against individuals inciting hate and violence or making false claims on the social media, another EU (i.e. German) state is taking a different approach to harnessing the chaos of Internet. It recently passed a parliamentary bill that imposes rather strict and tall fines on the social media providers for not removing any content deemed illegal, false or morally inappropriate in a quick and timely fashion [1]. That bill is effectively shifting the responsibility for the content towards the medium, (i.e. the channel or the “messenger”) and may change the very nature of social media and, also, increase dramatically the costs of their business models so far based on a kind of near liberalist philosophy of “self-controlling” and almost unrestrained freedom of expression.

Namely, one could argue that such or similar, higher responsibilities may bring the social-media platforms closer to other, “mainstream” public media organisations that usually employ (and pay) professionals: the content producers (e.g. journalists), legal advisers and editors imposing self-restraint if not even self-censoring on their journalists and the content being published and so, to remain more or less comfortably within the norms of their home states. For example, (according to the same Guardian's article), as a consequence, Facebook now plans to employ 3000 more staff to deal with managing their content.

One could then argue that such bill may be a turning point for economically viable future, if any, of many of social-media platforms and international internet publishers. And, as it is also alleged by some critics, the freedom of expression and the affordable distribution of anything (so far) being posted may be limited too. However, adherents of such bill cold easily argue that it is not much different from how e.g. US law already allocates rather limited, reactive rather than proactive responsibilities to the mere technical conduits such as commercial internet service providers (ISPs) [2].

In any case, with more or less space/time for the specifically targeted promotions of their commercial sponsors, social media are here to remain as competitors to the mainstream, mainly commercial media for the shares of the commercial revenues. It is however another questions if, becoming more commercialised themselves, the “social media” may remain as impartial platforms for balancing the alternative, competitive-monopolistic brands of the truth on the commercial media market as they have been so far - or will they themselves become more like the other, so called “liberal” mainstream media [3], thus, more commercially sensitive to any, explicit or implicit, demands by their sponsoring partners in managing and controlling their content whilst aiming at augmenting their partners' businesses.

Read also Part One and Part Two.

[1] Germany approves plans to fine social media firms up to €50m, The Guardian, 30 June 2017.
[2] When Is an ISP Liable for the Acts of Its Subscribers?
[3] The balancing of the scales

David Leonhardt, A French Lesson for the American Media, NYT, 9 May 2017.
A French Lesson for the American Media
G.V. MacKintosh, Why Nations Fail