Social media companies in Germany face fines of up to 50m euros if they fail to remove obviously illegal content in time. From October, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites with more that two million users in Germany must take down posts containing
hate speech or other criminal material within 24 hours. Content that is not obviously unlawful must be assessed within seven days.
Failure to comply will result in a 5m euro penalty, which could rise to 50m euros depending on the severity of the offence.
Facebook responded in a statement:
We believe the best solutions will be found when government, civil society and industry work together and that this law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important societal problem.
German MPs voted in favour of the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law after months of deliberation, on the last legislative day before the Bundestag's summer break.
Opponents responded the tight time limits are unrealistic, and will lead to accidental censorship as technology companies err on the side of caution and delete ambiguous posts to avoid paying penalties.
The bill has faced criticism from human right's campaigners. Many of the violations covered by the bill are highly dependent on context, context which platforms are in no position to assess, wrote the UN Special Rapporteur to the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, David Kaye. He added that the obligations placed upon private companies to regulate and take down content raises concern with respect to freedom of expression.
The law may still be chllenged in Brussels, where campaigners have claimed it breaches EU laws.
German authorities want the right to look at private messages on services such as WhatsApp to try and prevent terrorism. Ministers have also agreed to lower the age limit for fingerprinting minors to six from 14 for asylum seekers.
Ministers from central government and federal states said encrypted messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Signal, allow militants and criminals to evade traditional surveillance. We can't allow there to be areas that are practically outside
the law, interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters.
Among the options Germany is considering is source telecom surveillance, where authorities install software on phones to relay messages before they are encrypted. That is now illegal.
Austria is also planning laws to make it easier to monitor encrypted messages as well as building out a linked network of cameras and other equipment to read vehicle licence plates.
A Danish man who posted a video of himself burning the Quran on Facebook will not stand trial after politicians abolished an outdated blasphemy law.
The man was seen setting a large leather-bound copy of the holy book alight in a four-minute clip called Consider your neighbour: it stinks when it burns.
He faced up to four months in prison after prosecutors were alerted to the footage, which was posted to a Facebook group called Yes to freedom -- no to Islam in December 2015. They brought blasphemy charges under clause 140 of Denmark's
penal code, which bars people from publicly insulting or degrading religious doctrines or worship.
But the case has been dropped after Danish MPs revoked the 334-year-old legislation, and declared they do not believe that there should be special rules protecting religions against expressions. MP Bruno Jerup told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper:
Religion should not dictate what is allowed and what is forbidden to say publicly. It gives religion a totally unfair priority in society.
Threatening or degrading behaviour based on people's religious beliefs will still be punishable under other Danish laws.
Denmark's blasphemy ban was recently revived when a man was charged for burning the Quran. Signatories argue that an expression grossly offensive to religious believers merits protection as peaceful 'free speech'.
We the undersigned respectfully urge the Danish Parliament to vote in favour of bill L 170 repealing the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code, punishing "Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or
worship of any lawfully existing religious community".
Denmark is recognized as a global leader when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. However, Denmark's blasphemy ban is manifestly inconsistent with the Danish tradition for frank and open debate, and puts Denmark
in the same category as illiberal states where blasphemy laws are being used to silence dissent and persecute minorities. The recent decision to charge a man -- who had burned the Quran -- for violating section 140 for the first time since 1971,
demonstrates that the blasphemy ban is not merely of symbolic value. It represents a significant retrograde step in the protection of freedom of expression in Denmark.
The Danish blasphemy ban is incompatible with both freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is no compelling reason why the feelings of religious believers should receive special protection against offense. In a vibrant and
pluralistic democracy, all issues must be open to even harsh and scathing debate, criticism and satire. While the burning of holy books may be grossly offensive to religious believers it is nonetheless a peaceful form of symbolic expression that
must be protected by free speech.
Numerous Danes have offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Muslims without being charged under section 140. This includes a film detailing the supposed erotic life of Jesus Christ, the burning of the Bible on national TV and the
publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The Cartoon affair landed Denmark in a storm of controversy and years of ongoing terrorist threats against journalists, editors and cartoonists. When terror struck in February 2015 the venue
was a public debate on blasphemy and free speech.
In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended. In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those
who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended.Retaining the blasphemy ban is also incompatible with Denmark's human rights obligations. In April 2017 Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagtland emphasized that
"blasphemy should not be deemed a criminal offence as the freedom of conscience forms part of freedom of expression". This position is shared by the UN's Human Rights Committee and the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression and
Since 2014,The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland and Malta have all abolished blasphemy bans. By going against this trend Denmark will undermine the crucial European and international efforts to repeal blasphemy bans globally.
This has real consequences for human beings, religious and secular, around the globe. In countries like Pakistan, Mauritania, Iran, Indonesia and Russia blasphemy bans are being used against minorities and political and religious dissenters.
Denmark's blasphemy ban can be used to legitimize such laws. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief pointed out that "During a conference held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) [in 2015], the Danish blasphemy provision
was cited by one presenter as an example allegedly indicating an emerging international customary law on "combating defamation of religions".
Blasphemy laws often serve to legitimize violence and terror. In Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh free thinkers, members of religious minorities and atheists have been killed by extremists. In a world where freedom of expression is in retreat and
extremism on the rise, democracies like Denmark must forcefully demonstrate that inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant societies are built on the right to think, believe and speak freely. By voting to repeal the blasphemy ban Denmark will send a
clear signal that it stands in solidarity with the victims and not the enforcers of blasphemy laws.
Jacob Mchangama, Executive director, Justitia
Steven Pinker, Professor Harvard University
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Exiled editor of Shuddhashar, 2016 winner International Writer of Courage Award
Pascal Bruckner, Author
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Human Rights Activist Founder of AHA Foundation,
Dr. Elham Manea, academic and human rights advocate (Switzerland)
Sultana Kamal, Chairperson, Centre for Social Activism Bangladesh
Deeyah Khan, CEO @Fuuse & founder @sister_hood_mag.
Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
William Nygaard, Publisher
Flemming Rose, Author and journalist
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship
Kenan Malik, Author of From Fatwa to Jihad
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director Article 19
Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America
Pragna Patel - Director of Southall Black Sisters
Leena Krohn, Finnish writer
Jeanne Favret-Saada, Honorary Professor of Anthropology, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor, University of Aalborg in Copenhagen
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women's Issue
Michael De Dora, Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry
Robyn Blumner, President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (Poland).
Sonja Biserko, Founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
James Lindsay, Author
Mahal Mali, Publisher and editor, Areo Magazine
Julie Lenarz - Executive Director, Human Security Centre, London
Terry Sanderson President, National Secular Society
Greg Lukianoff, CEO and President, FIRE
Thomas Cushman, Professor Wellesley College
Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School
Simon Cottee, the Freedom Project, Wellesley College
Paul Cliteur, professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Lalia Ducos, Women's Initiative for Citizenship and Universals Rights , WICUR
Lepa Mladjenovic, LC, Belgrade
Elsa Antonioni, Casa per non subire violenza, Bologna
Bobana Macanovic, Autonomos Women's Center, Director, Belgrade
Harsh Kapoor, Editor, South Asia Citizens Web
Mehdi Mozaffari, Professor Em., Aarhus University, Denmark
Øystein Rian, Historian, Professor Emeritus University of Oslo
Kjetil Jakobsen, Professor Nord University
Scott Griffen, Director of Press Freedom Programmes International Press Institute (IPI)
Henryk Broder, Journalist
David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées, Atheist freethinkers Tom Herrenberg, Lecturer University of Leiden
Simone Castagno, Coordinamento Liguria Rainbow
Laura Caille, Secretary General Libres Mariannes General
Andy Heintz, writer
Bernice Dubois, Conseil Européen des Fédérations WIZO
An Austrian appeals court has ordered Facebook to remove political criticism of an Austrian politician. the court ruled that posts calling Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig a lousy traitor of the people and a corrupt klutz are
somehow hate speech.
The ruling by the Austrian court doesn't just require Facebook to delete the offending posts in Austria, but for all users around the world, including any verbatim repostings. That would be an aggressive precedent to set, since Facebook has
historically enforced country-specific speech laws only for local users.
Facebook has removed the posts in Austria, which were posted by a fake account. It has yet to remove the posts globally because it is appealing the case.
American legal experts speaking to The Outline called the ruling troubling, and warned of the potential ramifications Facebook and its users could face as a result. Daphneth Keller, director of intermediary liability at the Stanford Center
for Internet and Society, told The Outline that the ruling sends a signal to other countries that they too can impose their laws on the rest of the world's internet. She asked:
Should Facebook comply globally with Russia's anti-gay laws, or Thailand's laws against insulting the king, or Saudi Arabia's blasphemy laws? Would Austria want those laws to dictate what speech its citizens can share online?
The German broadcasting authority, the Landesmedienanstalt , has issued a temporary ruling requiring streamers using services such as Twitch and YouTube to obtain a broadcasting license to avoid penalties. This license, known in German as the
Rundfunklizenz , can cost anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 euro to obtain.
The news comes after popular Twitch streaming channel PietSmiet said it was told it will need a license by April 30 if it wants to continue streaming. The changes apply to all online streamers with a very low threshold of 500 or more followers.
German ministers have recently approved plans to fine technology companies if they fail to censor posts that are claimed to be hate speech or 'fake news'.
The law introduces fines to the tune of approximately £42.7m if technology companies do not censor complalined about posts within 24 hours of it being reported (or seven days to deal with less clear-cut cases). The approval comes one month after
the draft law, the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, was unveiled.
Google, Facebook and Twitter are likely to be particularly affected.
Many have raised concerns over the censorship process. The head of the Digital Society Association, Volker Tripp, said: It is the wrong approach to make social networks into a content police.
The implementation of the law will now mean that all contended posts will now be rapidly and routinely removed regardless of the voracity of the complaint. After all this is the age when complainants are always right.
Germany has approved a draft law that will enable businesses to run open WiFi hotspots without being held liable for the copyright infringements of their customers. Copyright holders will still have the ability to request that certain sites are
blocked to prevent repeat infringement.
In most jurisdictions it's standard practice for those who commit online copyright infringement to be held responsible for their own actions. However in Germany there is a legal concept known as Störerhaftung (interferer liability) where a
third party who played no intentional part in someone else's infringements can be held responsible for them. This type of liability has raised its head in a number of file-sharing cases where WiFi owners have been considered liable for other
As a direct result of this precarious legal position, Germany has found itself trailing behind its European neighbors when it comes to providing public Internet hotspots. Some have described the situation as an embarrassment for one of the most
advanced countries in the world.
Under pressure and in response to a European Court of Justice opinion on the matter last March, the government eventually decided to rescind liability for open WiFi operators. Since then the government has been working on changes to local law to
bring it into line with EU standards. A third draft presented by Brigitte Zypries, Minister for Economics and Energy, has now been adopted by the cabinet.
Should the amendments receive parliamentary approval, businesses will be free to offer open WiFi to their customers, without fear of being held liable for their actions. They will also be able to offer truly open WiFi, with no requirement to
verify the identities of users or have them log in with a password.
While copyright holders won't be pleased by the changes, they will still have opportunities to clamp down on infringement. If a certain WiFi location is connected with online piracy, a properly filed complaint will require the operator to bar
access to websites connected with the infringement.