I’ve followed with tremendous gusto the efforts by Germany to create a more controlled environment when it comes to social media. In some ways, I think it’s a really amazing, and perhaps worthwhile experiment.

A statement came out of Germany a few days ago though (Nov. 2017), which is being attributed by Reuters to Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Reuters paraphrases:

“The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency accused U.S. tech giants like Facebook on Monday of failing to take enough responsibility for content on their sites, undermining democracy by not distinguishing between fact and opinion.”

A direct quote attributed to Maasen appears later:

“These are huge digital companies that only see themselves as conveyors of information and hide behind the legal privileges enjoyed by platforms because they do not want to take over editorial verification of their content.”

I think it’s important to be clear about what’s being asked for here:

Companies should tell us what is true and what is not true. 

While certainly platforms could do more to fight fake news, do we really want to outsource truth to them? Don’t they have enough power already?

I get that this is probably a more culturally-German viewpoint, and that information quality must be one of the top priorities for a society built on information. But this just seems really risky to me