News ID: 265887
Published: 0401 GMT February 19, 2020

Germany to tighten screws on online hate speech

Germany to tighten screws on online hate speech
AFP

With the danger growing from far-right extremists and torrents of threats against politicians, Germany plans to toughen online speech laws and tighten the screws on social networks.

Ministers in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government approved a new package of measures on Wednesday, days after 12 men were arrested for planning deadly attacks on mosques, communicating in part via chat groups, AFP reported.

The draft law now passes to parliament for MPs to deliberate.

"In future, those who make threats or spread hate online will be prosecuted in a tougher and more effective way," Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said on her ministry's website.

One headline measure in the bill will step up the pressure on social networking firms such as Facebook and Twitter to quickly remove the offending content.

In future, the Silicon Valley giants will also have to report certain types of illegal posts to the federal police, who will be able to pass on actionable data to prosecutors.

Neo-Nazi propaganda or plans to commit a terrorist attack would be covered under such rules.

But people approving crimes, making death or rape threats or sharing child pornography images could also be caught in the widened net.

Social media platforms that refuse to cooperate will face fines of up to 50 million euros.

"Hate crimes will finally end up where they belong: before a court," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

On top of the new reporting processes, Berlin wants to toughen potential sentences, including up to three years in prison for online death or rape threats.

But there are limits to the rules, leaving it up to the person affected to pursue cases of insult or libel.

In the most serious cases, such as terrorism or murder, network operators will be required to give up users' passwords to the authorities if ordered to by a judge – including if they are encrypted.

"Extremists don't radicalize themselves out of nowhere," Justice Minister Lambrecht said.

"Inhuman spreading of hate and threats online lowers the thresholds" to violence, she added.

Ministers' plans have not gone unopposed in Germany, where debate is fierce between those who value online anonymity as a shield against the state and those who see unregulated online spaces as a threat.

Elsewhere in the draft law, the government aims to reinforce its ability to protect prominent personalities.

Threats and verbal or physical attacks have become more common against office holders, with 1,241 politically-motivated attacks targeting elected officials in 2019 and increasing numbers requiring police protection.

 

 

   
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