Germans Rage As New Hate Speech Law Backfires

Germans Rage As New Hate Speech Law Backfires

by Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge – January 7, 2018

As we reported recently, in what was officially a noble attempt to eliminate online hate speech in social media, and unofficially a devious crackdown on free speech, on January 1, 2018, Germany passed a law that forces websites to censor content deemed illegal under the new law and have it deleted within 24-hours. Ironically, as we observed last week, just hours after the law’s passage it immediately backfired when it claimed its first victim, a German satirical magazine’s Twitter account which “parodied anti-Muslim comment.”

Incidentally, this perfectly predictable if “totally unexpected” outcome is exactly what we, and many others had warned would happen. And now, it is finally dawning on Germany that any time the government gets involved in defining what is allowed and what isn’t – especially when it comes to that most fundamental of liberties, free speech – the result is always a disaster.

According to Germany’s top-selling, and most popular newspaper, Bild, the new German law meant to curtail online hate speech is “stifling free speech and making martyrs out of anti-immigrant politicians whose posts are deleted.”

The law which took effect on Jan. 1 can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly and threatens the profitability  of such social media giants as Twitter and Facebook.

Please spare us the thought police!” read the headline in Wednesday’s Bild above an article that called the law a “sin” against freedom of opinion enshrined in Germany’s constitution, Reuters reported.


While the law requires social media sites to delete or block obviously criminal content within 24 hours, Bild Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt said it could be applied against anything and anyone since there was no definition of what was “manifestly unlawful” in most cases.  Intended to prevent radical groups from gaining influence, “it was having precisely the opposite effect,” he warned.  “The law against online hate speech failed on its very first day. It should be abolished immediately,” Reichelt wrote, adding that the law was turning AfD politicians into “opinion martyrs”.

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Two examples where the German law was already applied, included tweets deleted by AfD lawmaker Beatrix von Storch criticising police for tweeting in Arabic, saying they had sought “to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men”. Police have since asked prosecutors to investigate her for possible incitement to hatred.


There was also deleted tweet by another AfD member of parliament, Jens Maier, called Noah Becker – the son of former tennis champion Boris Becker – a “half-nigger”.

In response to the criticism, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas defended the law, telling Bild that freedom of opinion did not mean carte blanche to spread criminal content on the internet.

“Calls to murder, threats, insults and incitement of the masses or Auschwitz lies are not an expression of freedom of opinion but rather attacks on the freedom of opinion of others,” he said.

Germany is no stranger to limiting free speech: the country has some of the world’s toughest laws on defamation, incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities.  Maas said social networks needed to stick to the law like everyone else, adding: “Those who care about protecting freedom of opinion can’t just look on as criminal incitement and threats inhibit the open exchange of views.”  And so, the government refuses to back down even as the rest of Germany realizes what a profound chilling effect the new law will have on online speech everywhere. Once the lawsuits start flying and the social networks are punished a few hundred million, it will only embolden the critics, who will then lash out again “anything and anyone” because, as the Bild editor correctly noted, “there is no definition of what was manifestly unlawful.” Incidentally, this inexplicably broad definition, one which puts any content creator immediately on the defensive, is precisely what the government intended.

AfD: German Hate Speech Law Destroys Freedom of Speech, Bans Political Dissent

AfD: German Hate Speech Law Destroys Freedom of Speech, Bans Political Dissent

January 5, 2018

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Germany’s new “hate speech” law, which regulates posting on Twitter and Facebook, is a restrictive measure targeting freedom of speech and political dissent in the country, AfD member Albert Breininger told Sputnik Friday.

“Here in the AfD, we are very critical of this law. It is another restrictive measure and a tool of repression against freedom of speech and of the press. It aims at preventing people and politicians from bringing up certain issues and expressing their political views, including on the existing problem of Islamization,” Breininger said.

The politician recalled that deputy leader of the AfD’s parliamentary faction Beatrix von Storch’s tweet was blocked on Tuesday by the social media giant, citing that the message had run afoul of Germanlaws.

“German police have filed a complaint against Beatrix von Storch over a tweet on New Year’s Eve, where she criticized Cologne police for sending a New Year’s greeting in Arabic on Twitter,” he said.

Germany’s hate speech law, also known as NetzDG after its full German name, aims to regulate social media platforms and to make sure hate speech and terror propaganda is removed from the networks, came into full force on Monday.

The legislation was approved by the Bundestag in late June. According to the law, introduced by German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas, all materials containing hate speech or propaganda for terrorism must be deleted within seven days, or within 24 hours in cases of clearly illegal content. Systematic violations of the requirements would be dealt fines of up to 50 million euros ($57 million).

AfD Politician Censored Under New German Hate Speech Law For Anti-Muslim Tweet

AfD Politician Censored Under New German Hate Speech Law For Anti-Muslim Tweet
January 2, 2018
Beatrix von Storch, a leading figure in the Alternative for Germany party, is one of the first hit by new hate speech laws on social media. Critics say the legislation opens the way for censorship by internet companies.

A top lawmaker from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was blocked from Twitter and Facebook on Monday after slamming the Cologne police for sending a New Year’s tweet in Arabic. The incident caused the AfD to lash out further and criticize censorship as a controversial new German social media law known as NetzDG went into effect January 1 in a bid to clamp down on online hate speech.

The Cologne police tweeted New Year’s greetings and linked to information on celebrating safely in a series of messages in German and other languages, including Arabic. Cologne was the scene two years ago of mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in which most of the suspects were described as young men of North African and Arab origin.

“What the hell is happening in this country? Why is an official police site tweeting in Arabic? Do you think it is to appease the barbaric, gang-raping hordes of Muslim men?” wrote Beatrix von Storch, the deputy leader of the AfD’s parliamentary group.

The tweet was later deleted after Twitter froze von Storch’s account and informed her she had violated hate speech rules. Her account was shut down for 12 hours. The Cologne police said on Monday that they had filed a criminal complaint against von Storch for hate speech.

Von Storch undeterred

The lawmaker then upped the ante, writing a sarcastic post once her account was reopened. She also announced that her Facebook account had been “censored” due to a hate speech complaint.

“Facebook has also censored me. That is the end of the constitutional state,” she wrote, showing the message she received from the social media giant.

Due to the Cologne police criminal complaint, she wrote that state prosecutors would have to investigate lifting her parliamentary immunity, then indict her and go through a court process to finally convict her.

“My knees are shaking,” she wrote of such an unlikely scenario. “But Facebook has already issued a judgment.”

New year, controversial new law

The AfD has branded NetzDG as a “censorship law.” But they are not alone in criticizing a law that requires companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google to remove content that advocates violence or slander or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million).

Internet activists and journalist organizations have also raised objections, not least because the government has deliberately left the task of deleting content or blocking users to the internet platforms themselves, rather than having courts make decisions.

The AfD appears to want to make the new social media law a major issue by testing boundaries and provoking a response from social media companies and law enforcement authorities.

AfD parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel wrote on Facebook and Twitter defending her party colleague and lamenting what she called the “censorship law,” while sharing the text of von Storch’s deleted tweet and repeating her complaints, while referring to “migrant mobs” instead of Muslim men specifically.

Cologne police later said on Tuesday that they had received criminal complaints against Weidel