back to article Tick-tick... boom: Germany gives social media giants 24 hours to tear down hate speech

The German parliament has today approved a law that would see social media titans fined up to €50m if they don't quickly remove hate speech from their sites. The law - Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, or Network Enforcement Act - gives the likes of Facebook and Twitter just 24 hours to remove or block criminal content from the …

  1. ElectricFox
    Gimp

    *******

    <This comment has been witheld pending moderation by Frau Merkel>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *******

      To tell the truth... a few days ago I was looking at the comments at the bottom of articles in more or less random "mainstream" news sites. It was an interesting exercise.

      Now, having in the past worked in an occupation that gave me access to people's private lives across all socioeconomic classes (emergency services), I am well aware that humankind is still a remarkably primitive species, but even so I was wondering if comments on those sites are not bot-generated. I do not know why they would be, but they just seemed too gratuitously malicious for someone to actually bother writing that kind of stuff.

      In hindsight, at least on El Reg one can have some sort of reasoned discussion with some regularity (although even here, at certain times of the day when moderation is not so active, you do get to see a small sample of the kind of stuff that mods have to deal with--respect to them).

      So in short, if a small outlet such as El Reg can invest on policing what gets posted in the interest of maintaining a minimum of decency (along the lines of "do not be an arse"), then surely bigger organisations can do at least as good a job of it.

      1. E 2

        Re: *******

        Understandably the comment at The Reg are more reasoned: they're moderated.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *******

      Bread and Roses.

  2. codejunky Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Ha

    "the real attack on freedom of expression were hate-speech posts."

    And so block hate-speech to protect freedom of expression. Because hate-speech is not expressing yourself... erm.... or its not expressing in a way that they deem right or correct! Such as...erm... whatever the gov decides is right or wrong. Such as when the EU stated they would not work with the Austrian right wing party and would help the French block a NF win. But this is only a Germany thing and not an EU thing so we are ok. Until the Germans cant handle the scope of the problem (migration for another example) and then it will be an EU matter.

    But dont worry, this is all for the protection of freedom of expression. And I am sure the definition of hate speech will only be terrorism. Or extremism. Or political extremism. Or anything said in hatred. Unless its a hate filled lefty speech which might be ok. If the gov agrees with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha

      > Because hate-speech is not expressing yourself... erm.... or its not expressing in a way that they deem right or correct!

      "Hate speech" has a sufficiently descriptive name that a reasonable person should have a good guess as to why it is not acceptable.

      But in case this needs spelling out, from a legalistic point of view the problem with such speech is that it interferes with the dignity of other people. That being something which, since 1948 and in the aftermath of unprecedented turmoil, has been decided that it must be protected.

      As the declaration says, human dignity is the basis of freedom, justice, and peace¹.

      > Such as...erm... whatever the gov decides is right or wrong

      Governments are bound by what is called international law. They are compelled to act within its boundaries and uphold its principles, and most of the time most governments follow most of the law².

      This is why they are obliged to uphold human dignity and therefore combat hate speech, so that freedom of speech can exist.

      ¹ Those of us who have experienced armed conflict know this only too well.

      ² Can anyone remember who was the diplomat who said that or something to the effect?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Devil

        Re: Ha

        "Hate speech" has a sufficiently descriptive name that a reasonable person should have a good guess as to why it is not acceptable.

        BS. Currently the term "hate" is defined as anything that goes against political correctness, and as such it's a marvelously flexible tool. Leftists frequently use it to silence/demonize/arrest practically any publicly vocal person or organization they oppose, even one of their own if necessary.

        Germany hopes the internet will auto-regulate according to their hate definition. Hey, it's called hate for a reason, right? What's not to hate...?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Oh the irony

          "political correctness" is itself an infinitely flexible, but ultimately meaningless term.

          I'm sick of yank politics, because none of it is grounded in political theory. It's just mud-slinging between the equally stupid left and right.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh the irony

            "I'm sick of yank politics, because none of it is grounded in political theory. It's just mud-slinging between the equally stupid left and right."

            Hey, at least we have a Right. I hear that most of Europe has criminalized the Right, in accordance with their "political theories."

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Oh the irony

              But I guess from where you're standing you'd need binoculars to see any other points on the political spectrum.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ha

          > BS.

          Admittedly, I only took one semester of international law so I am far from an expert.

          > Currently the term "hate" is defined as anything that goes against political correctness

          Please note that "hate speech" is a colloquial reference. In the present case, what is being clarified is the responsibility of certain actors acting as content providers in reference to the crimes of incitement to hatred on the basis of certain protected characteristics and attacks on human dignity. May I ask if you read German?

          > Leftists

          The federal government is a grand coalition led by two conservative partners. The Chancellor, Dr Merkel, is an East German belonging to one of those conservative parties.

          > Germany hopes the internet will auto-regulate according to their hate definition.

          I think, my dear chap, that you are slightly confused. Forgive me the insistence, but could I ask you again if you are capable of reading German? In the event that you are not, perhaps this article from the English edition of a well-known German news publication may help clarify the problem that legislators are attempting to address.

          1. Updraft102 Silver badge

            Re: Ha

            "The federal government is a grand coalition led by two conservative partners. The Chancellor, Dr Merkel, is an East German belonging to one of those conservative parties."

            Only as far as it is Germans who get to define "conservative."

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Ha

              > Only as far as it is Germans who get to define "conservative."

              They don't actually define conservatism, they just define their own far left stance as the middle of the political spectrum. So much simpler that way...

          2. Grass Mud Horse
            Big Brother

            Re: Ha

            Insisting twice "May I ask if you read German?" as A.C is actually funny, I am sure you do (read German).

            Someone who leads with "Chancellor Dr Merkel" and recommends that "well-known German news publication" spiegel.de, I call "Schmalztrompete" (pollyanna for the unprivileged).

            What I think about that addressing legislator would probably fall under the hate speech clause...

            1. Nattrash
              Thumb Up

              Re: Ha

              @ Grass Mud Horse

              Good one. I saw the same "signs" when I read this.

              BTW if you're ever lost for words, "might I recommend this?, if you speak German"

              http://www.gerstlauer.de/andreas/fun/warmduscher.html

          3. Spruance

            Re: Ha

            >Please note that "hate speech" is a colloquial reference. In the present case, what is being clarified is >the responsibility of certain actors acting as content providers in reference to the crimes of incitement >to hatred on the basis of certain protected characteristics and attacks on human dignity. May I ask if >you read German?

            As a German I am fully aware of the contents of the new law and I am deeply unhappy about the introduction of another rubber term into a law.

            >The federal government is a grand coalition led by two conservative partners. The Chancellor, Dr >Merkel, is an East German belonging to one of those conservative parties.

            To describe the grand coalition as conservative is believing denominators more than the actual actiions of this plitical entity.

            >I think, my dear chap, that you are slightly confused. Forgive me the insistence, but could I ask you >again if you are capable of reading German? In the event that you are not, perhaps this article from >the English edition of a well-known German news publication may help clarify the problem that >legislators are attempting to address.

            Citing DER SPIEGEL in this case illustrates your confusion about german politics. This once renowned magazine has drifted under the youger Augstein well to the left of the political spectrum.

  3. emullinsabq
    Gimp

    all you need to do is change the name

    I don't read German, thus I believed the article's characterization.

    Now, I find the law to be an abomination. But it it would be relatively easy for me to support it. Just rename it to something like: Social Media Reduction Act

    where the point is to reduce overall use of social media sites. That I could get behind, and more to the point, it would have the same effect. We are rapidly degenerating to a point where the only legal thing you can do is remain silent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: all you need to do is change the name

      We are rapidly degenerating to a point where the only legal thing you can do is remain silent.

      *Knock Knock*

      "Yes?"

      "Open up! You are under investigation for excessive silence! Our AI predicts imminent extra-suspicious behaviour!"

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: all you need to do is change the name

      He was a loner, never spoke to anyone and stayed away from social media; clearly he hated everyone so we put him in prison.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This absolutely, positively will not be misused by cranks looking to hassle people with whom they disagree. I mean, sure, it was totally misused when community policing went into effect on Twitter and YouTube, but things will be different this time.

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

    And is that definition in any way accurate?

    And is Germany going to enforce this extra-territorialy?

    I'm concerned, considering that Germany has a poor track record on freedom of speech that strays from accepted religious, historical and political norms.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

      I hope there is otherwise this becomes nothing more than a way of controlling the population is allowed to see. A typical STASI control technique, so it is to be expected.

    2. Wapiya

      Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

      Some things are lost in translation or cultural context. In this case hate speech. Germany has laws defining it. Although the translation should not be hate speech, but rabble rousing, defamation, sedition, incitement of the masses. Hate speech in english does not get it right. By the way: These laws came after WWII and were "suggested" by the allies.

      This rabble rousing and some other "non free speech" thingies like defamation were always illegal in Germany. Even online. Only the enforcement was sometimes problematic, because offenders were hiding behind FB and others. And FB hides behind their rules, eben though the US definition of hate speech has only a nodding acquaintance with the German one. FB deletes posts for violations that are fully allowed in Germany, but okays forbidden posts.

      And there is a fine distinction between hate speech and free speech. If you say " I think, these butterflies. should be burned" Then you are in free speech country. "You must burn these butterflies, now." like you were doing this on a marketplace with intend to do incite the masses to do so could get you into problems.

      An this is my bone with this law:

      The almost fully dropped judical oversight. Outsourcing control to a private company (FB). This will curb free speech. FB will proactively delete allowed posts to avoid being fined. This is something for the police and then judges. The law has still to clear the "Bundesrat", the assembly of the states. As this is a federal law, they can only delay, but that could get it past the end of the term of the current parliament in spetember. Then it will be void.

      I think the law will either not be signed by the federal president or struck by the constitutional court.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

        > Some things are lost in translation or cultural context. In this case hate speech. Germany has laws defining it. Although the translation should not be hate speech, but rabble rousing, defamation, sedition, incitement of the masses. Hate speech in english does not get it right. By the way: These laws came after WWII and were "suggested" by the allies.

        > This rabble rousing and some other "non free speech" thingies like defamation were always illegal in Germany. Even online.

        An excellent summary, thank you!

        > An this is my bone with this law:

        > The almost fully dropped judical oversight. Outsourcing control to a private company (FB).

        That is good point and a very legitimate concern. However, I do not think it removes judicial oversight. I think it merely gives the judiciary a means to enforce the already existing laws and reminds the likes of FB to comply with those.

        > This will curb free speech. FB will proactively delete allowed posts to avoid being fined.

        Maybe, or maybe not. It does really depend on the moderation stance being taken. In principle, there is no reason why FB cannot adjust their moderation policies to something that takes a view of the concept of freedom of expression that is a bit less aligned with the idea that US media¹ have of it.

        ¹ Which does not particularly reflect the position of US courts in the matter either.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

      Hate speech is very clearly defined in German law and has been illegal for decades, so there is a lot of precedence. The problem here, in Germany, is that any other media has to retract hate speech, pay fines and issue appologies, just the web and social media has had a free pass until now.

      On the positive side, they passed the law for gay marriage yesterday and they banned Donald Trump...

    4. patrickstar

      Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

      In Germany, even questioning the established narrative of certain historical events (most famously the Holocaust) is illegal. People literally go to jail for years for this.

      Restricting speech because the speaker has the wrong opinion on something clearly goes way beyond restricting direct incitements to violence or such.

      1. uncommon_sense
        Stop

        Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

        You can ban hate speech, but you can never ban HATE!!!

        Hate speech is the safety valve, block it, and the big BANG will happen much sooner...

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

        "Restricting speech because the speaker has the wrong opinion on something clearly goes way beyond restricting direct incitements to violence or such."

        I don't think flat out denying that the Holocaust ever happened qualyfies as "having the wrong opinion".

        1. patrickstar

          Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

          So, saying that it's your opinion that something didn't happen doesn't count as having an opinion about it if the subject is controversial enough. Got it.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

        I expect the Germans are touchy about the holocaust given their history, but what exactly do you need to question about it?

        1. patrickstar

          Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

          Whether or not someone else perceives your "need" to say something should not be a prerequisite for being allowed to say it. That's part of the whole freedom of speech thing.

          Just as whether or not someone else perceives your speech as offensive, factually wrong or just plain stupid should not be a reason to prohibit it.

          Look - you should read some of the things that Germany considers "illegal hate speech".

          Take the writings of Germar Rudolf for example. Germany has literally imprisoned him for years, banned his books, destroyed the books already in circulation (an old-fashioned state-sanctioned book burning!), and confiscated the proceeds from the sale.

          Is his overall conclusion wrong? Most likely.

          Is there any shred of "hate", incitement to violence, or anything except an attempt at civilized discourse anywhere in the banned writings? No.

          Is he a Nazi, perhaps acting as part of some banned group with a violent agenda? No. His motive is essentially that the German genocide of Jews is being used to justify the post-war genocide of Germans.

          (I'm not linking anything here but use a search engine located in a country with something actually resembling freedom of speech and you'll find his personal site)

          Again - disagreeing with someone is not a valid justification for banning him from saying it. Even if it hurts someone's feelings, or a lot of persons feelings. Even if it's provably wrong, on the "Earth is flat" level of moronity. Even if literally everyone else in the whole world think there's no "need" to say it.

    5. Spruance

      Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

      It is not. There is no definition at all attached.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thought Experiment

    Step 1 - Disable FB access to IP addresses associated with German ISPs

    Step 2 - Redirect traffic from those IP addresses to a page listing the names of the politicians that voted for the Network Enforcement Act

    Step 3 - Title the page "We'll be back when they're gone"

    I wonder how the German people would react? Would they be inclined to close ranks in solidarity with their legislators? Is there a sufficient quantity of German FB addicts that would break out the proverbial torches and pitchforks and issue recall demands? How much power could Zuck truly wield if he had the will?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bedbugs

    Interesting law. I find myself trying to craft scenarios that end up costing FB et al 50M.

    Bedbugs are the scourge of the earth. You can never kill enough of them either, one or two escape. That is when you have to find torture implements. Open flame, smashed to oblivion, or just suffocated. Nothing is too good for them, lest they procreate. It is important to make an example of them too!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate the trains in this country!

    I hate it when the toast lands butter side down!

    I hate it when I follow through!

    Am I doing this hate speech thing right? Who decides what is right and what is wrong?

    Silly law not thought out properly and a knee jerk reaction or a clever way of censoring opinions you don't agree with or that criticise the government.

    Will the German government be allowed to inform facebook and others of what they consider hate speech and have it removed?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Watchit, AC. We don't want to see El Reg get fined 50 million Euros now, do we?

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Hating the trains is OK, but saying you want to attack the railway staff probably isn't.

      1. moiety

        I hate twats in another country thinking they can tell me what I can and can't fucking say. {Hate speech}. I bet they are, to a person, fat bastards who sleep with close family members. (Defamation). We must take action, brethren and sistren! We must bitch about the ugly tosspots on the internet until they are slightly uncomfortable! (More defamation; sedition, and rabble-rousing...hat trick!).

        Think that's the bases covered....

  9. DagD

    "no one should be above the law"

    accept Hillary Clinton... Hillary is "above the law".

    albeit, that's not Germany's fault.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      WTF?

      @DagD -- Re: "no one should be above the law"

      Bitte versuchen Sie, auf Thema zu bleiben, Arschloch!

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: "no one should be above the law"

      accept Hillary Clinton

      I will never accept Hilary Clinton.

      I would probably except her though.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: "no one should be above the law"

        "I will never accept Hilary Clinton.

        I would probably except her though."

        Close with the grammar trolling, but you didn't manage to stick the landing, falling over that spare 'l' that you left out of Hillary.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

    Because it seems the US definition of "antisemitism" is being rammed down the legal pipes hard:

    International Campaign is Criminalizing Criticism of Israel as “Anti-semitism”

    Especially in Germany, this might be hugely successful.

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

      "International Campaign is Criminalizing Criticism of Israel as “Anti-Semitism"

      Shocking. Especially that the UK has apparently adopted that twisted definition.”

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

        "Shocking. Especially that the UK has apparently adopted that twisted definition."

        Sadly, that does seem to be true.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

      Which one are you referring to? Off the top of my head and not counting failed States (Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Palestine although not a State, Yemen, …), you have Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran. In addition, all monarchies in the region have freely elected representatives at least at the sub-national level. In the case of Bahrain, and ignoring the obvious historical, cultural, and societal differences, the system itself is not altogether unlike the United Kingdom's.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

        AC, what gives you the idea that Syria was a failed state?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

          > AC, what gives you the idea that Syria was a failed state?

          It wasn't. It is now, sadly.

          Btw, I lived in the Middle East for many years and I have a special fondness for that region, so very sad to see what is going these days.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

        Turkey a democracy? You didn't notice that successful coup (Yes, it was successful, the fools that were on the streets just failed to understand their role) that took place then, followed by the locking up of teachers, lecturers, academics, judges, anyone who opposed Erdoğan?

  11. Someone Else Silver badge
    Alert

    Hoo-boy!

    I'm sure the most revered Bundestag has come up with a clear, unambiguous, objective and measurable definition of what constitutes "hate-speech". I mean, after all, that what they do, right?

    Who knows? Maybe they will share it with the rest of us?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Hoo-boy!

      Actually, they have.

      Volksverhetzung

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    online hate crimes

    I'm curious: what constitutes an "online hate crime"?

    It seems that would necessarily be limited to posting content to a web site?

  13. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Pay in 24 hours

    Or we start paying the lawyers while the possible fine is moved to a high interest account in some *friendly* country... offsetting the fine, and paying a portion of the retainer already written off...

    Just a page out of Wall Street 101...

  14. Jim-234

    Politicians care more about speech they don't like than stopping terrorists.

    After quite a number of countries have proven their utter inability to keep tabs on known radicals who are potential terrorists, claiming something about lack of resources or such, those same countries seem to have unlimited resources to hunt online for anyone who says anything that makes certain "protected classes" of people feel uncomfortable.

    In Germany for example where in many cities women don't feel safe to be out alone at night, there are enough spare resources to go kicking in the doors of anyone posting about their dislike of a more recent religion to come out of the middle east. (but it's fine to rail against some other religions more common in Germany).

    It seems what politicians really care about is making sure nobody says anything that the politicians deem is not the correct ideas. (Usually based on whatever small group whines the loudest).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politicians care more about speech they don't like than stopping terrorists.

      Jim (and another gentleman below), the two actually go together. Terrorism could, somewhat cynically, be described as an exercise in marketing and communications. Its effectiveness depends not on the actual damage caused, but on people's belief in the possibility of damage occurring.

      This is also what has enabled certain non-State actors in the Middle East to gain an undue amount of influence in Western policy and to become incredibly successful at recruiting, at minimal cost to themselves.

      Do you recall any vehicle ramming attacks during The Troubles? No? Well, they did occur (e.g., to a former colleague of mine while serving in 14 Int). They just did not merit the publicity cost, which was much higher in those pre-WWW times.

      In other words, controlling the flow of information is one aspect of what is popularly called "combating terrorism". The latter being of course a massive can of worms, but that's a different discussion.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Choices, choices

    Which is better? An obscene, hate-filled rant on Facebook from someone who thinks they're doing harm or a rented van driven into a crowd of pedestrians by someone who no longer has an outlet online?

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Choices, choices

      Who no longer has an outlet online?

      The El Reg Commentard Community welcomes refugees from anti-free-speech laws elsewhere. Well, erm, I'd like to think it does: many of us rightly call for freedom of speech and take issue with threats to it.

      On a serious note, we in Blighty may have some serious idiots in government (including the prime minister and home secretary). But others seem genuinely to understand Freedom of Speech. Consider this article by Boris, and (if I may be so bold) my reaction to it (note the date: I was over-optimistic about the then-nearly-new government in my comment).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Choices, choices

        > Consider this article by Boris

        Consider the date of that article and the evolution of online communications since then.

        Consider what the comment sections of "serious" media looked like and 2011 and what they look like now.

        Consider this little conspiracy theory of mine, with absolutely no proof to back it up and no subject knowledge to argument it, but I do wonder what percentage of "user comments" in those media come from actual humans acting independently, as opposed to bots such as the ones you can hire to "like" your own Fartbook page, or that of your product, or the Amazon Turk reviewers writing extolling the virtues of your product, or writing scathing comments about your competitors. I think one possible indirect measure of that phenomenon, if it exists at all, could be to look at the level and quality of interaction between posters (someone writing a pertinent reply to someone else's comment).

        Lastly, tangentially in support of the above, consider this rather amusing article from last year.

    2. Queasy Rider

      Re: Choices, choices

      "Which is better? An obscene, hate-filled rant on Facebook from someone who thinks they're doing harm or a rented van driven into a crowd of pedestrians by someone who no longer has an outlet online?"

      But he had an outlet online, and he still chose to drive that van into a crowd of pedestrians.

      I love free speech, but along with increasing intolerance, we are seeing a rise in associated violence. When the so-called leader of the free world attacks a judge because of that judge's Mexican ancestry, tries to prevent Muslims from entering the country because of their religion rather than their actions, you can bet that there is a follow-on effect i.e. the haters come out of the woodwork, feeling justified in their multiple hatreds, itching to get at the objects of their blind hate. The more hate speech you allow, the deeper the hate becomes until it is no longer speech but hateful actions. People, did we learn nothing from Hitler and the Nazi party? We don't need a modern day Crusade. Don't get me wrong, I am not defending the Muslims. I want those hateful imams thrown in jail to rot, not expelled. They are the ones hurting us, inciting more hate. The programmer wanting to come from the middle east might also be, but this isn't Minority Report. Until they open their mouths espousing hatred, or are found to be associating with those that do, hold your horses. The 3 letter agencies know who they are. They better, with all their sneaky tricks up their sleeves. I am sick of seeing our freedoms snatched away from us one after another, but enough is enough when it comes to allowing hateful, inciteful speech.

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Choices, choices

        "When the so-called leader of the free world attacks a judge because of that judge's Mexican ancestry, tries to prevent Muslims from entering the country because of their religion rather than their actions,"

        The problem is that neither of those ever happened.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Choices, choices

          The problem is that neither of those ever happened.

          Actually they DID happen... but there is always an angle outside of the progressive ergosphere, so let's have it:

          The Donald & the la Raza Judge

          Trump, Immigration and the Supreme Court

          (Comments on that site are rather inflammatory and would definitely be squashed by Madame Merkel's Goodthink Control Squads, so beware)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The German parliament has today approved a law that would see social media titans fined up to €50m if they don't quickly remove hate speech from their sites.

    Good. About time social media sites took some responsibility. But who decides just what is 'hate speech'?

    1. uncommon_sense
      Devil

      > But who decides just what is 'hate speech'?<

      Usually the ADL, through the lobbyists, down to the politicians...

  17. Stuart Grout

    Disconnect Germany?

    Simple solution is to block Germany from access to Google and any non-German social media and let them set up and police their own system.

    It seems to work well enough in North Korea and at least this way there is no risk of trying to censor the world to prevent Germans taking offence.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Disconnect Germany?

      I think you are over-reacting. The new law will not enact new crimes. It merely tells the world that comments on social media which break existing laws must be acted on far more quickly than is currently the case. It will not tell Facebook what to do other than to act on reports in a timely manner.

      The real downside is that Facebook and their employees or volunteers now have a fairly short window to make a judgement call on whether something is illegal or not and they will almost certainly err on the side of caution. But, if the law is enacted and FB follow it to the letter, they don't need to massively increase their bot/human armies to scan and censor everything over and above what they do now. What they have to do is assess and respond to reports of illegal content. The biggest change for FB is they now have to study and understand the law in the jurisdictions where they have an actual presence instead of assuming everything is under some version of US law.

      1. Invidious Aardvark

        Re: Disconnect Germany?

        Whose existing laws should be enforced? Thailand lèse majesté laws? N. Korea's speech laws (whatever they may be)? If Germany gets to say "not these sorts of posts" then everyone else does too. The US version of free speech may allow for unpalatable things to be said but that's a much better system than anywhere else I can think of. Once you start censoring based on one country's laws, where do you stop?

        What is illegal? Where does that line get drawn and by whom? Is a post by someone in the USA regarding the holocaust liable to be taken down by a German user's request? Whose laws apply to that post? The post is perfectly legal in the USA so why does German law apply?

        The internet is harder to legislate for precisely because it doesn't respect the old territorial boundaries. Until every country gets together and sorts out an agreed framework on how laws should be applied to the WWW (fat chance) you're left with attempting to apply local laws to content from other countries, which is just never going to be practicable.

        Then there's the problem of whether something is, actually, illegal. Ultimately the legality or otherwise of a post should be decided by a court of law, not by a social media company employee.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Auferstanden aus Ruinen

    Right-wingers here say the law is being passed to suppress undesired voices before the impending vote. I consider myself a left-leaning liberal and I tend to agree. This law is blatantly unconstitutional and actively subverts the German rule of law, so it is only a matter of time until someone takes it to the Federal Constitutional Court which will then put an end to it in all likelihood. But that takes time and by the time something is done about it, the vote will be over and feckless Heiko and his ex-Stasi-advisers will have come up with even more madness.

    Oh, did I mention our beloved leaders now also want to put trojans on our devices so they can avoid people using encryption? Only to catch the bad guys, of course.

    This is all full-on GDR-style.

    I am ashamed of what my country has become.

    I am most upset about the harrowing indifference of my fellow countrymen.

    I am deeply worried about what comes next.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

      > This is all full-on GDR-style.

      What is your age and what part of the country do you come from?

      I assure you, my dear fellow, with the benefit of age and hindsight I, unlike my parents, am no longer ashamed of what Germany has become. I may not love it as such, and it has her warts and all, but I assure you that "your" country has made huge progress in this and the last part of the previous century.

      You are quite welcome to disagree with whatever policies or political decisions are made, but your posting style does not exactly come through as that of the thoughtful and balanced person that you might well be.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

        Yes, so much progress, one hardly knows where to begin.

        Back to being a military power in countless conflicts, pushing for global „responsibility“

        Openly supporting regime-change in several countries.

        Enabling the US-drone war via Ramstein and denying it, killing thousands, breeding terrorism.

        Pushing for deployment of our military within our own borders.

        Partaking in the constant confrontation of Russia, risking every progress the fall of the wall brought to the people of all nations.

        Supporting highly dubious NGOs, say in Syria, with millions of tax-€.

        Pushing our agenda down Europe’s throat, not only turning Greece into a warning memorial to others but also turning the promise of a united Europe into a neoliberal race to the bottom nightmare.

        Establishing what a less balanced person would likely call a Hartz4 slave-caste within one’s own population, serving as a disciplining bugbear to everyone.

        Passing unconstitutional legislation left and right.

        Pushing for a total surveillance-state with means the GDR could only dream of.

        Employing Ex-Stasi advisors to crack down on „hatespeech“

        Subverting the rule of law.

        Eroding civil rights.

        Of course, I am writing from the highly privileged position of a late seventies western kid not having endured living in the GDR. So I guess you are right and the comparison of present-day Germany with the GDR is inappropriate. After all, the GDR would never have had the means or the audacity to pursue any of this, would never have been able to achieve this much… progress.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

          Also, assuming that you lived in the GDR, I would think you should see the writing on the wall very clearly. How are you not worried?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

        >"your" country has made huge progress in this and the last part of the previous century.<

        Being a Zionist vassal-state?

        Having essentially abolished free speech to keep it in chains?

        Having diluted its culture to make the white man a slave to globalisation?

        Which bit is the improvement, exactly?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

          I think the idea is rather to make *every man* a slave to globalisation, irrespective of pigmentation.

          I also think I have an idea about what AC No. 2 means by "improvements" but I am out of time for today.

          Please keep it civil.

          Thank you

          AC No. 1

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auferstanden aus Ruinen

        > the thoughtful and balanced person that you might well be.

        Or not! :-)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It appears to me at least that many people have lost sight of the fact that freedom of speech is one of a number of fundamental rights, each of which has the same or at the very least a comparable status and priority. In the EU in general, and Germany in particular it is often necessary to BALANCE these rights against each other in cases where equally relevant rights are actually in conflict with one another. In the US this balance does not appear to enter into the political and social arena. The simplest example is that the freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but the right to privacy is not. In the EU however privacy is a constitutional right, which means that the right of free speech does NOT TRUMP the right to privacy, so you cannot legally violate a person's right to privacy on the basis of your right to freedom of speech. In the end the final instance is the constitutional court, and quite frankly the German Bundesverfassungsgericht has a pretty good record in protecting fundamental rights in that country.

    In this particular argument however the simple point is that the law now makes it clear that the same laws that have applied to print and broadcast media in Germany for decades, ALSO apply to social media and that the time is coming to an end where FB and others (twitter ??) can ignore these laws with impunity. The new law now brings accountability and liability to focus on FB which has so far delighted in obstructing the process of law in the most reprehensible manner ... by simply making it impossible to enforce and allowing even the most evident violations of laws against incitement to violence, among others, to hide behind a smoke-and-mirrors screen.

    I myself have no sympathy for those who wish to hide behind a veil of anonymity while inciting violence and hatred against minority groups and individuals. Make no mistake, the offences that are being protected in the social media would lead to quick prosecution if the same comments and hate-speech was published in printed media. Why should FB be protected against this any more than any of the printed media ?

    As I said in the introduction, it's about balancing fundamental rights and finding a socially acceptable final outcome ... a matter for the judiciary which in my view is alive and healthy in Germany even though it is not perfect by any means. Our US readers could do worse than understand and acknowledge that EU and German law and their respective constitutions DIFFER with respect to which rights are enshrined and protected by the constitution and the courts. In Germany there are good historical reasons that this is so and in my personal view that is a good thing.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets not fuck about.....

    Ultimately, people had no place to vent all the negative feelings that we all experience. The internet has now become that place.

    Consider the poor police. Our workload has significantly increased since people now phone us:

    "Someone on Facebook called me a cunt."

    Yes, it's a crime under the Communications Act, but.... fuck.... grow a pair?

    Nothing will ever beat:

    "Someone's posted this picture of my girlfriend on to my Facebook feed."

    I brace myself for a nude or something...turns out one of his friends rather skillfully edited a nice profile picture of this guys girl, and replaced her face with a vagina. Several seconds of silence, but internally me going "DO NOT FUCKING LAUGH"..... before I manage to strangle out.. "that's...different.."

    Brilliant.

  21. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    WTF?

    Someone on Facebook called me a cunt?

    A crime?

    Seriously?

    Obviously not if it was face to face, but still......

    Any successful prosecutions?

  22. sixit
    Facepalm

    Hitler did something similar back in the day

    Tsk, tsk, Germany, your fascist roots are showing. It's irony that your hate-speech law can be itself considered hate-speech by some. Frankly, though, no one should have the right to make such a law.

    Are you ready to be plunged into the black forest of the social media void your country will endure if the big social media companies simply decide Germany isn't worth allowing to be on their service? You, Germany, are looking at the equivalent of a Soviet-era Berlin firewall around your capital, should Twitter and Facebook choose to put something up between you and them for their safety. Stand down before the world yet again shows your ass to the floor by putting you back into the dark ages that was pre-internet connectivity.

  23. Kym Farnik

    And who defines what is hate speech?

    At least the USA has free speech. Just because you don't like what is being said does not mean it is not free.

    Facts trump feelings. German Govt = #antifa

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