A new German law designed to combat hate speech on social media platforms has come into force, according to a report in TechCrunch.

The law named 'Enforcement on Social Networks' abbreviated as NetzDG will require social media platforms to police and remove hate speech as well as offensive content within 24 hours of notification from the government. If the content is difficult to evaluate, the time for taking it down could be stretched up to seven days.

Germany's Ministry of Justice could impose fines going up to a whopping €50m (£44m, $59m) on companies that fail to comply, the report said.

The ministry has already started inspecting sites, but there's a transition period in place, which will give companies a few months until 1 January, 2018 to prepare for the changes.

According to Spiegel Online, the NetzDG law applies to all sites – big or small – meeting the legal definition of a social network. The law, which was proposed in April and passed a month later, might not only target social media giants such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but also platforms like Reddit, Flickr, Tumblr, Vimeo, VK, and Gab.

The German news website also notes that the social networks operating in the country will also have to provide details of a contact person who should be available to answer queries from German investigators within 48 hours in case a need arises. The country intends to have about 50 officials to implement the law.

The law had drawn flak as organisations representing digital companies said it could damage free speech, with platforms taking down content to avoid big penalties.

Germany is not the only one launching a crackdown down against illegal content. Last week, the EU proposed a set of guidelines and principles, telling social media companies that failing to get rid of illegal content on their platforms could lead to legal consequences.