Germany has announced that it will introduce compulsory Internet censorship starting in March.
The censorship scheme will block access to child pornography, and will follow a similar model to Norway, where the Government decrees a list of child pornography sites to be blocked by ISP’s.
Germany Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen addressed concerns that the censorship regime could exclude other content by confirming that it may be extended: We must not dilute the issue. Child pornography is a problem issue and clearly identifiable.
[However] you can not exclude what the federal government may wish to block in the future.
Several German ministries seem to be in a footrace to draft legal text for a filtering regime blocking child pornography from German users’ personal computers agreed by the government last week.
Initiated by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) the government has debated for months how to step up blocking of child pornography from servers outside of the country. Now the Justice Minister has announced
a draft special law. The Economics Minister pointed to the already ongoing review of the German Telemedia Law, a law covering rights and obligations of telecommunication media content providers. The obligation to block access to child pornography
sites listed by a government agency would fit in there.
The German government pointed to an announcement by the European Commission from earlier last week that systems to block access to websites containing child pornography will be developed and to existing systems in Denmark, Finland, Italy and
BMFSFJ Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Party), in a debate in the German Parliament last week reiterated: The rights of children carry more weight than unhindered mass communication. Von der Leyen for months has pushed
fervently for a quick private agreement with big internet service providers (ISPs) including Deutsche Telekom, Arcor or 1und1 Internet.
Yet Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries and members of Parliament from her own party and the Green Party warned against a contractual solution. The filtering regime must be dealt with in a regular law because it could touch on fundamental rights of
citizens and requires policies for liability for possible errors. In addition, Germany’s federal police - designated as contract partner for the ISP and manager for the list of child pornography sites according to existing law - has no competence in
dealing with other than terrorism when it comes to preventive action.
Zypries welcomed that some ISPs had agreed with von der Leyen to work right away on the technical implementation that is necessary in the servers of the companies. When a special law is ready, expected by summer, technical implementation will be in
place, too, she said.
Zypries also underlined that blocking of internet addresses alone might not be enough. We should go deeper than that, she said. Criminal prosecution also is a must, she said. If and how information collected through the filtering regime should
trigger prosecution has not been discussed so far. A page with a stop-sign to which users trying to access child pornography sites will be redirected can only inform users why this special site is not available. Yet it also is possible to log users’ IP
addresses during this process allowing authorities to identify and prosecute them.
Five of Germany's eight major Internet service providers — Deutsche Telekom's T-Online, Vodafone's Arcor, Kabel Deutschland, Telefonica's O2 and Alice's Hansenet — signed a legally binding agreement with the government and the Federal Crime Office,
agreeing to install software to block consumer access to child pornography sites. The five companies together cover around 75% of the German market.
Software blocks installed by the ISPs will redirect consumers attempting to click on blacklisted websites to a red stop sign. The Federal Crime Office has compiled a blacklist of 1,000 sites, which is updated daily.
Under the agreement, the ISPs have six months to install the page blockers.
The German cabinet is expected to announce changes to the telecommunications law by summer that would force the remaining Internet providers to block child porn sites.
German Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen is struggling to pass a new law designed to combat online child pornography in the face
of widespread concern over censorship and freedom of speech. The law would use blacklists to bar access to specific sites.
Von der Leyen proposes setting up an office in the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation to determine whether or not sites should be blocked. Lists would then be sent to Internet service providers, which would be responsible for blocking the
The list would contain an estimated 1,500 sites. Von der Leyen says blocking them could derail 450,000 hits a day. The personal data and ISP addresses of people trying to access blocked sites would not be captured.
The bill would be the first time in the history of post-war Germany that police would be granted the authority to determine what can and cannot be shown by the mass media. Right now, the legislation doesn't call for any supervision of the proposed
Opponents of the bill say the proposal threatens the freedom of the Internet, and that blocks on Web sites and other censorship measures are easily bypassed and ineffective. Thus far, almost 100,000 people have signed a petition against the
measure, twice what the law requires to force a discussion in German parliament. One fear is that the list, once established, could be used to censor other sites. Opponents also argue that blocking Web sites is ineffective against child
pornographers, who tend to distribute material through e-mail, peer-to-peer systems and chatrooms, all of which are much harder to police.
Social Democratic parliamentarian Gregor Amann said on Wednesday that he doubted the bill would succeed due to concerns over its threats to personal freedoms: Since I know many of my colleagues in the SPD share my opinion on this question, at
this point I would say that this bill will either not pass in this legislative period or will be dramatically changed.
Politicians from the nation's two major parties agreed on a final version of Germany's internet filtering bill Monday night, reports
Gigaom. The bill could now be approved as soon as Thursday.
Free-speech advocates, Internet activists and Internet service providers have opposed the bill and suggest denial-of-service blocking does not work, with concerns this will take the government into areas of greater Internet censorship.
Under the measure, German federal police would compile a block list containing the domain names and IP addresses of websites hosting and linking to child porn. ISPs would be required to block the sites and redirect all traffic to a site or sites
hosting a warning message in the form of a red Stop sign.
An official online petition against the bill has received more than 130,000 signatures and counting, plus the number of citizens trying to sign the petition has reportedly brought down the parliament's Web infrastructure several times.
ISPs had voiced opposition to provisions in the measure that would mandate that they log each attempt to access a blocked site and share the information with law enforcement organizations. This would include anyone who might accidentally click on
the wrong link, even if it was placed by a hacker. In turn, an innocent person could be labeled a pedophile, and with that possibility in mind, lawmakers removed that portion of the bill requiring ISP logs.
The German parliament passed a bill Thursday imposing censorship of pornographic websites justified by the need to protect children.
The legislation was proposed by a coalition of German social democratic and conservative parties. It requires the country's federal criminal investigators to maintain a list of websites accused of containing child pornography and to distribute it
to German ISPs, which will then be required to block queries to those websites with a stop sign.
In its present form, the bill requires only that ISPs display the warning sign. Users will still be able to access the flagged websites, but they will be advised that viewing child pornography is illegal. German legislators also bowed to criticism
by adding a sunset clause that will see the law expire in three years.
A German MP from the ruling Social Democrats (SDP) has resigned from the party and joined the Pirate Party in response to new
censorship laws in the country.
Jörg Tauss was one of only four members of the Bundestag to vote against the censorship legislation. The German laws, unlike those from other totalitarian regimes like Iran, China and Australia, are focused strictly on child pornography,
however there are deep concerns in Germany that once implemented the laws could easily be extended to other areas.
While Tauss has become the first member of the Pirate Party in the German Parliament, he has indicated that he won't be standing for re-election in September. Germany's election system makes it difficult for stand alone candidates to be elected or
German President Horst Köhler has hammered another nail in the coffin of a controversial law to block child pornography on the internet by refusing to sign it, news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.
Köhler has asked for supplementary information, the Spiegel report said.
The law, which critics argue would block access to other, innocent sites and therefore amounted to censorship, could breach Germany's constitution, experts believe.
Merkel's party and their new partners in government, the pro-business Free Democrats – who opposed the measure – agreed during coalition negotiations last month not to put the law into practice. But because it had already been passed by both houses of
the German parliament, it could not simply be dropped. Köhler refusal to sign it means it is now effectively stalled until the new government finds a constitutional way to kill it.
According to a Saturday report in business magazine Wirtschaftswoche, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had agreed to kibosh the law by ordering the federal police not to act upon it.
However, that would leave the law hanging in place.
A new bill to censor Germany's internet has been signed into law by Germany's president. There's only one problem: The government
has decided it no longer wants it. They are now in the awkward position of relying on opposition help to repeal the legislation.
The German coalition government, which pairs Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, has decided it no longer wants the law, which was massively opposed by Internet users. Instead of blocking access
to Web sites, it now wants to delete offensive Internet content instead.
The SPD is now set to introduce a bill before the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, on Feb. 25 which would repeal the new law, thereby overturning the legal basis for blocking Internet access.
The original Access Impediment Law was hugely controversial in Germany. There was massive opposition from Internet activists, who saw it as an attempt to censor the Web and an attack on the right to freedom of expression. Users feared that access
to harmless sites could also be blocked and that the access restrictions could easily be circumnavigated by savvy surfers.
The issue also caused a certain amount of political fallout. Then Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of the CDU who is now German labor minister, was behind the initiative to combat child pornography. Critics dubbed her Zensursula,
a portmanteau word combining her name and the German word for censorship. The issue also cost the SPD support among Internet users and helped boost the newly founded Pirate Party, which campaigned in the 2009 election on an Internet freedom and
civil rights platform and got an impressive 2% of the total vote.
On 22 February 2011 the German Working Group against Internet Blocking and Censorship (AK Zensur) submitted their complaint against the German law on Internet blocking to Germany's Constitutional Court.
AK Zensur and many others had fiercely opposed the law and announced that a complaint would be filed when the law was enacted by Parliament in June 2009.
A curious situation emerged when the government changed after the elections in September 2009, taking the liberal party FDP into power in a coalition with the conservative CDU/CSU. The FDP had opposed the blocking law in their election campaign, and
before the law came into force, it was agreed that it would not be fully implemented.
In a legally strange move, a non-application directive by the Interior minister stipulated that initially, only take-down was to be attempted, and the governing parties agreed that a review would be held about a year later.
This created something of a legal absurdity as the consequences of the law are not fully felt at the moment when the deadline to complain is expiring. But AK Zensur and its lawyers are confident that even now, many aspects of the law are in clear
violation of the German Constitution, and several experts had voiced similar concerns at a parliamentary hearing before the law was enacted. While political support for the ill-fated law has widely diminished, the governing parties have not found the
will to abolish it in a new Parliamentary act. AK Zensur is hopeful that with its complaint, it will be able to do the politicians' homework for them.
A website collecting signatures to support the complaint in the political debate will be started soon.
Germany is to repeal controversial legislation intended to block access to child-pornography sites on the internet, Justice Minister
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.
She had led protests by German libertarians against the legislation, which was was passed in 2009 but never implemented. Opponents contended that it opened the way to web censorship, since it set up mechanisms that could also be used by a
dictatorial government to block politically offensive websites.
ISPs would have been required to block page requests for child porn and to instead display a stop sign.
The minister said German police were now coping with the problem differently, tracking down servers with child-porn images and demanding that the server owners delete the images. German federal police have a web-porn department that tips off
foreign police forces about child-abuse websites.
An inter-state treaty that will overhaul Germany's gambling restrictions could prove a threat to the open net. Should a recent
draft be adopted, ISPs would be obliged to prevent users from accessing unauthorized gambling websites, which critics fear will mean the establishment of a censorship infrastructure that would breach constitutional rights.
A draft of the treaty sent to the European Union for approval in April includes a paragraph which has been widely interpreted as a provision for the introduction of Internet filtering as a means of blocking out foreign and unlicensed gambling websites:
[Translated from German] The gambling superintendent can [...], after prior publication of unauthorized gambling services, interdict service providers in the sense of the tele-media act, in particular access providers and
registrars, participation in providing access to unauthorized gambling services.
Commenting on an earlier draft of the same treaty, the Chaos Computer Club had warned that Internet service providers might be forced to implement deep packet inspection in order to prevent clients from accessing foreign gambling websites. In particular,
mention of an impact on the constitutional right to telecommunications secrecy, meaning that content information would be accessed, makes an intention to introduce deep packet inspection plausible.
The new gambling treaty has to be signed by 13 of Germany's 16 federal states to become effective. So far, the issue has raised controversy in a range of states governed by coalitions of Greens (against the proposal) and Social Democrats (for the
The issue has become particularly controversial in Northrine-Westphalia when recently it was discovered that for more than a year, there are already two district-level blocking orders (in German) against gambling websites. These were based on the
old gambling treaty, but have been disputed in court by the two ISPs in concern. As a Telekom speaker explained, the company perceives website blocking as requiring an unconstitutional breach of telecommunications secrecy.
The prime ministers of the federal states have now decided to delay a final decision on the gambling treaty to October.
Germany's lower house of Parliament has repealed a law enabling website blocking iof websites containing child
The Bundestag's 2009 law enabled a list of sites compiled by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office to be blocked by ISPs.
However the law was denounced as soon as it was passed and the repeal process was put into effect.
The criticism was that internet blocks are easy to work round via proxies and that putting them on a blocked list rather lets such websites off the hook, as they have seemingly been dealt with. And of course the websites are effectively vanished
to decent folks, so there will be no further complaints for the authorities to act upon.
The only way to prevent such sites from being viewed is to delete them, Internet expert Jimmy Schulz said, by alerting the individual Internet service providers.
Twitter has blocked access to a neo-Nazi account at the request of the German government.
The tweets will no longer be visible to users in Germany although the rest of the world will be able to view them.
It is the first time the social networking site has implemented its local censorship policy, which came into force in January. That policy allows it to block content in specific countries.
Announcing the decision, Twitter's general counsel Alex Macgillivray published links to the letter sent by German police, requesting the account be closed.
The letter outlined how the government had banned the organisation Besseres Hannover, (Better Hannover), a right-wing extremist group from Lower Saxony. It is disbanded, its assets are seized and all its accounts in social networks have to be
closed immediately, the letter read.
Update: The easily offended queue up to get insults blocked by Twitter
The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) is attempting to get a legal
judgment against Twitter to block and reveal the identities of users who sent anti-Semitic tweets under the hashtag #UnBonJuif - A Good Jew.
Spurred on by Twitter's decision to ban a neo-Nazi account in Germany, the group has sought a legal order for the tweets and their writers to be blocked. The UEJF's lawyer, Stephane Lilti, has criticized Twitter's reaction to their complaints,
and claims their demands were not listened to:
There is a fire and we have to put it out. We want to put an end to this torrent of hatred, which could become all so real. Like all hosts, Twitter has to react promptly when someone tells them about racism on their site.
Twitter has reacted as an American service provider: they're obsessed with American law. But, for tweets in French, destined for French people, Twitter must follow French law.
However saying that, the tweets are now being removed. The decision to remove the tweets emerged from a meeting between Twitter's senior management, the UEJF president Jonathan Hayoun and the group's legal representatives. During the meeting the
UEJF handed over a list of the posts it wants removed.
With enormous numbers of refugees prompting significant numbers of hateful posts on social media, German prosecutors are considering going after Facebook
itself for acting as a home for posts that advocate racial hatred and violate laws against neo-Nazi speech.
German prosecutors are investigating possible charges against three Facebook managers, prompted by a complaint that they failed to act against racist comments about Europe's refugee crisis.
The complaint came from German attorney Chan-jo Jun, of Wuerzburg. In it, he claimed to have flagged more than 60 Facebook entries that would violate German hate-speech laws. In an interview in Die Welt newspaper, he noted that the posts he flagged --
some featuring Nazi insignia and people posing while giving a Nazi salute -- are strictly forbidden by German law.
But, he said, Facebook responded to his complaints by saying the content didn't violate Facebook's community standards, and the posts were not removed. He made copies of the posts and sent them to Facebook's German managers by registered mail. In the
complaint he filed, he noted:
We need to put an end to the arrogance with which some companies try to translate their system of values to Europe.
Facebook Germany encourages the dissemination of offensive, punishable content through its actions in Germany.
This week, the German tabloid Bild ran a two-page spread of nothing but hateful Facebook comments, complete with user names and profile photos. The comments were directed at the large number of refugees seeking asylum in Germany, and those who support
Prosecutors in Hamburg have launched an investigation into the European head of Facebook over the website's alleged failure to remove racist hate
German politicians and celebrities have voiced 'concern' about the rise of xenophobic comments in German on Facebook and on other social media as the country struggles to cope with the million refugees who have responded to the country's
Facebook's Hamburg-based managing director for northern, central and eastern Europe , Martin Ott, may be held responsible for the social platform not removing hate speech. This move follows an investigation into three other Facebook managers
started last month.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has previously urged Facebook to do more on the matter.
Facebook said it would not commenting on the investigation. But we can say that the allegations lack merit and there has been no violation of German law by Facebook or its employees.
Facebook has launched a censorship campaign designed to silence hate speech, extremism and racism in Europe.
It unveiled its Online Civil Courage Initiative following months of pressure from the German government.
Although Facebook insists its strategy is about combating extremism, it does not make it clear whether this means Islamic terrorism, right wing racism or both.
Announcing the launch of the initiative, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said:
The best cure for bad ideas is good ideas. The best remedy for hate is tolerance. Hate speech has no place in our society - not even on the Internet. Facebook is not a place for the dissemination of hate speech or incitement to violence.
Germany has banned a far-right website for spreading racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic and
anti-Islamic content and arrested two people in a clampdown on hate crime.
Material on the website included banned Nazi slogans and the denial of the Holocaust as well as incitement of violence against foreigners, the prosecutors' office said.
The ban on the Altermedia Deutschland platform came as raids were carried out in homes in four German states as well as in the northeastern Spanish town of Lloret de Mar.
The two arrested people were the administrators of the Altermedia website and therefore responsible for its content that was served from a hosting company in Russia. German officials have asked Russia to take down the website.
The head of Germany's domestic intelligence, Hans-Georg Maassen, told reporters that:
There is the danger of a gray zone developing between far-right extremists, right-wing conservatives and citizen protesters with significant potential for violence.
Meanwhile Dutch far right website speaks of police taking action against people who tweet too much
Dutch police have been visiting the homes of people critical of asylum centres on Twitter, urging them to delete posts.
In recent months, police have visited the homes of many more people that criticised the plans for asylum centres. In October 2015, in Leeuwarden about twenty opponents of the programs received police visits at home. It happened in Enschede, and in some
places in the Brabant, where, according to the Dutch media, people who had been critical of the arrival of refugees and ran a page on social media on the topic were told to stop.
A spokesman for the national police acknowledged to Handelsblad that there are ten intelligence units of digital detectives monitoring in real time Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and looking for posts that go too far .
Berlin Police completed a large scale raid on internet users Wednesday. Police ransacked ten separate apartments. Nine people
were arrested and are accused of posting messages critical of migrants, migrant helpers and some anti-semitic slogans on social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.
The men were not connected by membership of far right groups. Police spokesman Stefan Redlich said that while many of the men shared anti-migrant views, the men do not know each other according to previous findings, and there was no evidence of
any planned conspiracy to commit crime among them. Redlich justified the raids saying they were maybe, people who just once expressed their hate-opinion.
Police announced that the raids show Germans that they are not as safe online as they might think. They say that anyone who says something xenophobic, spreads hate toward migrants, or shares what they consider to be xenophobic music, may be next on the
list of apartments to be raided in the future.
German police have carried out a series of raids, targeting people suspected of posting alleged hate content on social
media. The co-ordinated raids on 60 addresses were the first time the authorities had acted on this issue in such an extreme way.
Police comments on the issue suggest that the target of the raids were for comments that were considered right-wing extremism. However it is difficult to interpret the background when both the police and newspaper statements are contorted by the
politically correct requirement to not mention islam.
Holger Munch, president of Germany's federal criminal police authority, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) said: Today's action makes it clear that police authorities of the federal and state governments act firmly against hate and incitement on the
internet. He said politically motivated hate crime on the internet had increased significantly in the wake of the European refugee crisis.
Under pressure from the German authorities, Facebook, Twitter and Google agreed at the end of last year to delete such speech from their services within 24 hours. Facebook also agreed to a series of further measures including:
Partnering with a German group of multimedia service providers to solve the problem
Launching a task force to deal with hate speech on the internet
A propaganda campaign to promote counter speech in German, drawing in experts to develop ways to combat racism through discussions on social media.
Thomas de Maiziere, Germany's interior minister has said that Facebook should be more proactive in removing racist and violent content from its sites:
Facebook has an immensely important economic position and just like every other large enterprise it has a immensely important social responsibility.
Facebook should take down racist content or calls for violence from its pages on its own initiative even if it hasn't yet received a complaint.
The German government has been critical of Facebook in the past as it is the main medium for people to express their discontent about the government's refugee policies.
De Maiziere said he recognized Facebook's efforts to develop software that can better identify outlawed content and praised its efforts to fight child pornography. He added though:
But it's up to the company to ensure those terms are upheld. A company with a good reputation for innovation will have to earn a good reputation in this area.
Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the United Nations who now heads the Counter Extremist Project (CEP) in New York, a non-profit group that maintains a database of information about extremist groups, said about Facebook:
Of all the companies, Facebook has done the most, but they're all just starting to recognize that the weaponization of social media platforms is not good business and not good for society.
CEP is completing testing of a new software tool that will identify new images and videos published on social media sites by Islamic State and other extremist groups, and remove them instantly wherever they occur, much as already done with child
Germanpulse has published an interesting piece about German politicians expecting social media websites to pre-censors posts that the government doesn't
We have reported on the German government's war against social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google many times over the last year as the country tries to rid the popular sites of any signs of hate speech. While the companies have made attempts to
appease government officials with stricter enforcement, each move is said to still not be enough. The question is: is Germany taking the fight too far?
Volker Kauder, a member of the CDU, spoke with Der Spiegel this week to say the time for roundtables is over. I've run out of patience, and argues that Facebook, Twitter and Google have failed and should pay 50,000 euro ($54,865) fines for not
providing a strict level of censorship.
All major social media sites do provide tools to report hate speech offenders, but Kauder isn't the only one to argue that the tool is ineffective.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas made a statement that only 46 percent of the comments were erased by Facebook, while a mere one percent were taken care of by Twitter.
Maas' solution is not much different from Kauder's, as he told Handelsblatt that the companies should face legal consequences.
Der Spiegel has also published an opinion piece showing a little exasperation with trying to get comments censored by Facebook.
In June, the national body made up of justice ministers from the 16 federal states in Germany launched a legislative initiative to introduce a law which, if passed, would require operators of Internet platforms to immediately disclose the identity of
users whose online actions are the subject of criminal proceedings. The law explicitly covers companies that are not based in Germany, but in fact do business here.
Justice Minister Maas must now introduce the draft law to Chancellor Merkel's cabinet, but he's hesitant out of fear of a backlash among a net community that still views Facebook as a symbol of Internet freedom. So far, he has done little that goes
beyond appeals. If he wanted too, however, Maas could push for a further tightening of the country's telecommunications law. All that would be needed is a clause stipulating that every Internet company that does business in Germany would be required to
name one person within the firm who is a resident in the country who could be held liable under German law.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is at the centre of a criminal investigation in Germany into whether Facebook adequately censors Nazi-themed
content posted on the social network.
Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and its European policy director, Richard Allan, are also under investigation, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel. All three have been accused by Chan-jo Jun, a Bavarian lawyer, of failing to
ensure posts on Facebook containing racist abuse, threats of violence and Holocaust denial are removed.
Jun said he identified more than 430 posts on Facebook which he found offensive which were reported to Facebook but never deleted. Instead, he said Facebook sent him a generic response dismissing the posts as harmless.
According to Der Spiegel, prosecutors in Munich have now opened a preliminary investigation and are looking into whether there is enough evidence of a criminal offence. Under German law, Facebook is legally obliged to remove racist or Nazi-themed content
as soon as it becomes aware of it.
Facebook has dismissed the allegations, saying they lack merit, and insists that none of its employees have broken any laws.
For weeks, the German and international public sphere has been bombarded with a campaign
against so-called fake news. Now Der Spiegel is reporting that the government now wants to establish a Defence Centre against Misinformation , a type of censorship and propaganda agency.
The Defence Centre will be set up in the Federal Press Office under Steffen Seibert. The new centre is supposed to strengthen the political power of defence of the population and force social networks such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to
censor content posted by users.
The acceptance of a post-factual age would amount to political capitulation, an internal paper quoted by Der Spiegel said. The paper insisted that authentic political communication remains crucial for the 21 century as well.
Accordingly, wide-reaching measures would have to be formulated to deal with the disinformation campaign, fake news and the manipulation of public opinion.
The World Socialist Web Site notes:
In reality the plans for an Orwellian Truth Ministry have nothing to do with concerns about false news reports. Instead, the established parties, the state media and private media corporations fear that they are losing their monopoly on public opinion.
The Internet has provided millions of people with the possibility, for the first time, of obtaining access to information that has not been selected and filtered by the official media. This has been behind the fear in the media and political parties.
The ruling class is reacting to growing social tensions and political discontent in the same way it has in the past: with police, prosecution and the suppression of free speech.
Maybe German politicians are just panicking about the unpopularity of their free-for-all immigration and refugee policy.
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.
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.
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.
Germany's new internet censorship law came into force on 1st October. The law nominally targets 'hate speech', but massively high penalties coupled
with ridiculously short time scales allowed to consider the issues, mean that the law ensures that anything the authorities don't like will have to be immediately censored...just in case.
Passed earlier this summer, the law will financially penalize social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if they don't remove hate speech, as per its definition in Germany's current criminal code within 24 hours. They will be
allowed up to a week to decide for comments that don't fall into the blatant hate speech category. The top fine for not deleting hate speech within 24 hours is 50 million euro though that would be for repeatedly breaking the law, not for
Journalists, lawyers, and free-speech advocates have been voicing their concerns about the new law for months. They say that, to avoid fines, Facebook and others will err on the side of caution and just delete swathes of comments, including ones
that are not illegal. They worry that social media platforms are being given the power to police and effectively shut down people's right to free opinion and free speech in Germany.
The German Journalists Association (DJV) is calling on journalists and media organizations to start documenting all deletions of their posts on social media as of today. The borders of free speech must not be allowed to be drawn by profit-driven
businesses, said DJV chairman Frank 3cberall in a recent statement.
Reporters Without Borders also expressed their strong opposition to the law when it was drafted in May, saying it would contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms -- as if the
internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts.
Germany starts enforcing an internet censorship law where contested content has to be taken down pronto by
social media who will suffer massive fines of they don't comply.
The law is supposedly targeted at obviously illegal hate speech, but surely it will be used to take down content anyone doesn't like for any reason. The threats of fines and short time allowed simply means that websites will opt for the easiest
and most economic policy, and that is to take down anything contested.
The new law states the sites that do not remove obviously illegal posts could face fines of up to 50m euro. The law gives the networks 24 hours to act after they have been told about law-breaking material.
Social networks and media sites with more than two million members will fall under the law's provisions. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law's main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network
VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in its provisions.
Facebook has reportedly recruited several hundred staff in Germany to deal with reports about content that breaks the NetzDG and to do a better job of monitoring what people post.
Update: First examples of fair free speech being censored in Germany
Sophie Passmann is an unlikely poster child for Germany's new online hate speech laws.
The 24-year-old comedian from Cologne posted a satirical message on Twitter early on New Year's Day, mocking the German far right's fear that the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that have entered the country in recent years would endanger
Germany's culture. Instead of entertaining her more than 14,000 Twitter followers , Passmann's tweet was blocked within nine hours by the American social media giant, telling users in Germany that Passmann's message had run afoul of local laws.
Germany's rightwing AfD party have been busy with political posters pointing out that they will be the likely victims of censorship
under Germany's new law.
And they will certainly have a good claim. The new law will surely over censor, and any complaint will end up in a censored post, regardless of the merits of the claim. A slightly UnPC post by AfD is likely to be blocked, and so the AfD will
rightly be able to highlight the censorship.
The publicity for examples of censorship will surely chime with a significant proportion of the German population, and so will add to the general level of disaffection with the political elite.
Perhaps Germany ought to at least ensure that censorship should be based on the merits of the case, not implemented by a commercial company who only cares about the cheapest possible method of meeting the censorship requirements.
The Twitter account of German satirical magazine Titanic was blocked after it parodied anti-Muslim
comments by AfD MP Beatrix von Storch.
She accused police of trying to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men by putting out a tweet in Arabic.
On Tuesday night, the magazine published a tweet parodying von Storch, saying:
The last thing that I want is mollified barbarian, Muslim, gang-raping hordes of men.
Titanic said on Wednesday its Twitter account had been blocked over the message, presumably as a result of a new law requiring social media sites to immediately block hateful comments on threat of massive fines. There is no time allowed or
economic reason for assessing the merits of censorship claims, so social media companies are just censoring everything on demand, just in case.
Germany's NetzDG internet censorship law has been in force since the New Year and has already sparked multiple controversies. Opposition
parties across the political spectrum already say its time for change.
Senior figures in the rival Free Democratic (FDP), Green and Left parties on Sunday demanded lawmakers replace Germany's recently passed online hate speech law. The call comes after Twitter decided to delete allegedly offensive statements by
far-right politicians and suspend the account of a German satirical magazine.
The last few days have emphatically shown that private companies cannot correctly determine whether a questionable online statement is illegal, satirical or tasteless yet still democratically legitimate, the FDP's general secretary Nicola Beer
told Germany weekly Die Welt am Sonntag .
Beer said Germany needed a law similar to the one the FDP proposed before Christmas that would give an appropriately endowed authority the right to enforce the rule of law online rather than give private companies the right to determine the
illegality of flagged content.
Green Party Chairwoman Simone Peter has also called for a replacement law that would take away the right of private companies to make decisions regarding flagged content. He said:
It is not acceptable for US companies such as Twitter to influence freedom of expression or press freedoms in Germany. Last year, we proposed a clear legal alternative that would hold platforms such as Twitter accountable without making them
Greens' internet policy spokesman, Konstantin von Notz, also criticized the current statute, telling the newspaper that the need for reform the law was overdue.
Left leader Sarah Wagenknecht added:
The law is a slap in the face of all democratic principles because, in a constitutional state, courts rather than private companies make decisions about what is lawful and what is not.
Germany's justice minister fell victim to the rules he himself championed against online
social media when one of his tweets was deleted following several complaints.
The censored tweet dated back to 2010, when Heiko Maas was not yet minister. in the tweet he had called Thilo Sarrazin, a politician who wrote a controversial book on Muslim immigrants, an idiot.
Maas told Bild on Monday that he did not receive any information from Twitter about why the tweet was deleted, or whether it would be deleted from Twitter.
Germany meanwhile signalled on Monday it was open to amending the controversial law which combats online hate speech. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said an evaluation would be carried out within six months to examine how well the new law
The new German law that compels social media companies to remove hate speech and other illegal content can lead to unaccountable, overbroad censorship and should be promptly reversed, Human Rights Watch said today. The law sets a dangerous
precedent for other governments looking to restrict speech online by forcing companies to censor on the government's behalf. Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch said:
Governments and the public have valid concerns about the proliferation of illegal or abusive content online, but the new German law is fundamentally flawed. It is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid
steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.
Parliament approved the Network Enforcement Act , commonly known as NetzDG, on June 30, 2017, and it took full effect on January 1, 2018. The law requires large social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, to promptly
remove "illegal content," as defined in 22 provisions of the criminal code , ranging widely from insult of public office to actual threats of violence. Faced with fines up to 50 million euro, companies are already removing content to
comply with the law.
At least three countries -- Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines -- have directly cited the German law as a positive example as they contemplate or propose legislation to remove "illegal" content online. The Russian draft law,
currently before the Duma, could apply to larger social media platforms as well as online messaging services.
Two key aspects of the law violate Germany's obligation to respect free speech, Human Rights Watch said. First, the law places the burden on companies that host third-party content to make difficult determinations of when user speech violates the
law, under conditions that encourage suppression of arguably lawful speech. Even courts can find these determinations challenging, as they require a nuanced understanding of context, culture, and law. Faced with short review periods and the risk
of steep fines, companies have little incentive to err on the side of free expression.
Second, the law fails to provide either judicial oversight or a judicial remedy should a cautious corporate decision violate a person's right to speak or access information. In this way, the largest platforms for online expression become "no
accountability" zones, where government pressure to censor evades judicial scrutiny.
At the same time, social media companies operating in Germany and elsewhere have human rights responsibilities toward their users, and they should act to protect them from abuse by others, Human Rights Watch said. This includes stating in user
agreements what content the company will prohibit, providing a mechanism to report objectionable content, investing adequate resources to conduct reviews with relevant regional and language expertise, and offering an appeals process for users who
believe their content was improperly blocked or removed. Threats of violence, invasions of privacy, and severe harassment are often directed against women and minorities and can drive people off the internet or lead to physical attacks.
Authorities in Germany said they have received far fewer complaints from citizens than expected since the
country's social network censorship law (NetzDG) went into effect 01 January, reported Heise Online.
Germany's Federal Office for Justice (BfJ), the division of Germany's Federal Minister of Justice responsible for enforcing the law said they have received only 205 complaints since January, less than 1% of the amount predicted. The German
government had assumed that citizens would file roughly 25,000 complaints with the BfJ .
A German law requiring social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove reported hate speech without
enough time to consider the merits of the report is set to be revised following criticism that too much online content is being blocked.
The law, called NetzDG for short, is an international test case and how it plays out is being closely watched by other countries considering similar measures.
German politicians forming a new government told Reuters they want to add an amendment to help web users get incorrectly deleted material restored online.
The lawmakers are also pushing for social media firms to set up an independent body to review and respond to reports of offensive content from the public, rather than leaving to the social media companies who by definition care more about profits
than supporting free speech.
Such a system, similar to how video games are policed in Germany, could allow a more considered approach to complex decisions about whether to block content, legal experts say.
Facebook, which says it has 1,200 people in Germany working on reviewing posts out of 14,000 globally responsible for moderating content and account security, said it was not pursuing a strategy to delete more than necessary. Richard Allan,
Facebook's vice president for EMEA public policy said:
People think deleting illegal content is easy but it's not. Facebook reviews every NetzDG report carefully and with legal expertise, where appropriate. When our legal experts advise us, we follow their assessment so we can meet our obligations
under the law.
Johannes Ferchner, spokesman on justice and consumer protection for the Social Democrats and one of the architects of the law said:
We will add a provision so that users have a legal possibility to have unjustly deleted content restored.
Thomas Jarzombek, a Christian Democrat who helped refine the law, said the separate body to review complaints should be established, adding that social media companies were deleting too much online content. NetzDG already allows for such a
self-regulatory body, but companies have chosen to go their own way instead. According to the coalition agreement, both parties want to develop the law to encourage the establishment of such a body.