By Thorsten Severin
BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government wants Facebook to be more proactive in monitoring and, if necessary, removing forbidden as well as offensive content from its social network platform.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere visited Facebook's offices in Berlin and said the company had done well in cooperating with authorities when help was requested but it needed to do more on its own to thwart racist comments, outlawed symbols and appeals for terror.
"Facebook has an immensely important economic position and just like every other large enterprise it has a immensely important social responsibility," said de Maiziere before urging Facebook to do more to remove such content without being asked.
The government has been critical of Facebook in the past. Political leaders and regulators have complained the world's largest social network, with 1.6 billion monthly users, had been slow to respond to hate speech and anti-immigrant messages.
Last year Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Reuters that Facebook must abide by stricter German laws banning racist sentiment even if it might be allowed in the United States under freedom of speech.
Maas said that Germany, because of its Nazi past, has zero tolerance for racist and hate posts and expected Facebook to be more vigilant.
De Maiziere recognized Facebook's efforts to develop software that can better identify outlawed content, praised its efforts to fight child pornography, and said it was right to warn users in its terms against the dissemination of illegal content.
"But it's up to the company to ensure those terms are upheld," he said. "A company with a good reputation for innovation will have to earn a good reputation in this area."
Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, Facebook's head of Public Policy in Germany, told reporters during de Maiziere's visit that the discussions between political leaders and companies in social media would continue.
"We see ourselves as part of German society and part of the German economy," she said. "And we know that we have a major responsibility and we want to live up to this responsibility. We take this issue very seriously indeed."
Earlier this year, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg came to Berlin to respond to the criticism. He said he had learned from Facebook's experience in Germany that migrants were a group of people who also needed to be protected from hate speech online.
(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Toby Chopra)