German authorities have fined Facebook (FB.O) 2 million euros ($2.26 million) for providing a distorted picture of the amount of illegal content on the social media platform, a violation of the country’s law on internet transparency.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Federal Office of Justice, a judicial agency, said that by publishing incomplete information regarding the complaints it had received, the web giant created a skewed picture.
Faced with a global backlash over the role its platform played in election campaigns from the United States to Britain to the Philippines, Facebook has been on a public relations drive to improve its image.
Under Germany’s network transparency law, social media platforms are required to report the number of complaints of illegal content they have received. The charge that Facebook underreported violations could undermine its drive to burnish its tarnished reputation.
“This creates a distorted picture of the scale of illegal content on the platform and the way Facebook deals with it,” the office said. “The report contains only a fraction of the complaints of illegal information.”
In 2018, Facebook said it had received 1,048 complaints relating to illegal content on its platform over the second half of that year, according to its transparency report.
By contrast, transparency reports from Twitter and Google’s YouTube video service both reported well over a quarter of a million complaints for the whole year.
Scarred by the memory of the two authoritarian police states on its territory over the past century, Germany has some of the world’s strictest privacy and hate speech laws, latterly combined with some of the strictest social media regulations.