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German Police Raid Homes of Social Media Users Using Hate Speech

German police raided the homes of 36 people accused of hateful posting over social media. Most of the raids were against people posting right-wing extremist content but two of those raided were left-wing extremists. Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said, “the still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action. Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet.” Germany already has a law set up for posting hate speech online that could land someone in jail for up to five years.

Germans and most of Europe have cracked down on internet hate speech in the past year and after the recent terror attack in England, countries have put more pressure on social media outlets to remove hate speech. A new draft of a social media law against hate speech was set to fine social media companies up to $53 million or 50 million euros for not removing hate speech. The draft also called for a readily available process to report hate speech. It gave companies 24 hours to delete obvious criminal content and another week to decide on more ambiguous cases.

Facebook signed a code of conduct in 2015 stating that the company would remove hate speech. However, Facebook was still found to delete only 39 percent of hate speech within 24 hours in January and February 2017. Twitter was found to delete only 1 percent. Klaus Gorny, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement this year regarding the study “we are disappointed by the results. We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform.”

The draft to fine these companies such a hefty price may not go through as eight out of ten experts who testified in parliament said the law broke the German constitution. Bernd Holznagel, a professor at the University of Münster  stated, “our constitutional court will not allow such a statute. I think they would crush it. The statute sets up incentives to take out content if there is any doubt, so there is an incentive to erase speech, and that cannot be upheld. The second point is the other side of the coin, because if there is just an incentive to remove, what about the rights of the speaker who posts the content?

Others opposed to the heavy fine include Christian Mihr, another panelist and managing director of Reporters Without Borders, who stated, “the raid shows that we don’t need this law because we have already instruments for persecuting such crimes.


Featured Image Via Wikimedia

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