German authorities said on Monday that they are investigating Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and three other executives over allegations they broke national hate speech laws by failing to clamp down on racist content.
The other executives under investigation according to German newspaper Der Spiegel, are Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, its European policy director, Richard Allan and Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, head of public policy in Berlin.
Lawyer Chan-jo Jun, who initiated the claim, said he had compiled a list of 438 cases including incitement of hate and violence as well as support for terrorist groups made on Facebook, but which he said the social network has failed to delete even though they have been repeatedly flagged up as offensive speech, Der Spiegel reported.
The complaint lists 438 posts not deleted by Facebook despite repeated requests by users, which prompted the prosecutors to launch legal action.
“The management violated German law, by not removing illegal content from Facebook despite being notified, and allowing the content to be publicly available,” Jun said.
Confirming the case, spokesman of the Munich prosecution service, Florian Weinzierl, told AFP that “a complaint has been filed by a lawyer that accuses, among others, Mr Zuckerberg” of “the offence of incitement”.
According to him, the service is examining if it is the “competent office for such claims and whether there has been criminal conduct”, he said, adding that investigators are looking into whether German penal law applies in this case.
Facebook dismissed the report, stating that “the allegations lack merit and there has been no violation of German law by Facebook or its employees.”
“There is no place for hate on Facebook. We work closely with partners to fight hate speech and foster counter speech,” it added.
The California-based company last week reported third-quarter sales increased 56 percent to $7.01 billion.