GERMANY TIGHTENS, Online Hate Speech Rules!


Germany tightens

In a bid to tackle extremism and hate crimes, Germany tightens the nation’s online hate speech rules that would this time, see platforms send suspected criminal content direct to the Federal Criminal Police Office. While elsewhere, the French hate speech law is reportedly faced with the opposite by the nation’s top constitutional body on freedom of expression grounds. However, the rising cases of racial concern currently observed in the United States could’ve been a potential source of the amendment.

The latest from the European giant is viewed as a move by the country’s government to tackle a rise in right wing extremism and hate associated crimes that results to the spread of online hate speech.

The EU giant already has in place – the Network Enforcement Act, equally known as ‘NetzDG law’ which actually took effect in 2017, enforcing an obligation on social media platforms to get rid of hate speech within a set deadline as tight as 24 hours for mild cases. Should they fail to comply within the stipulated time! The platform will be faced with fines of up to 50 million Euros.

Meanwhile, it’s understood, reform of the Network Enforcement Act will be strengthened as the day goes, which is aimed at bolstering user rights and transparency, in addition to simplifying user notifications and making it easier for people to object to content removals that will potentially allow successfully appealed content restored coupled with other things. However, last Friday saw the parliament passed a reform that will practically extend NetzDG regulations by implementing a reporting obligation on platforms, and as such require them to report certain types of “criminal content” direct to the Federal Criminal Police Office.

Prior to Germany tightening its already existing NetzDG regulations, critics had previously viewed the move as it could lead to a restriction on freedom of expression by incentivizing platforms unto removing content in order to avoid fine. Also, a move tagged a flawed law in 2018 by Human Rights Watch, criticizing it for being “vague, overbroad, and turning private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal”.

The latest update to the existing rules could have as well seen personal data of the authors of reported social media posts being automatically sent to the police if not that the amendment including other additional reform was rejected. And as such, considered controversial, based on this, social network giants are currently faced with the option of joining hands with the state to build massive databases on citizens without concrete legal justification.

It was equally noted by the government that hates speech online has a humiliating effect on free speech as those targeted also feel intimidated. Also for some years now, the European Commission has mounted pressure on social platforms to enhance their reporting concerning hate speech takedowns which also witnessed the implementation of the European Union Code of Conduct on hate speech by tech companies.

What does this mean for social platforms as Germany tightens online hate speech rules?