Michelle Martin, Reuters, January 4, 2018
A new law meant to curtail hate speech on social media in Germany is stifling free speech and making martyrs out of anti-immigrant politicians whose posts are deleted, the top-selling Bild newspaper said on Thursday.
The law which took effect on Jan. 1 can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly. Twitter has deleted anti-Muslim and anti-migrant posts by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and blocked a satirical account that parodied Islamophobia.
“Please spare us the thought police!” read a headline in Wednesday’s Bild above an article that called the law a “sin” against freedom of opinion enshrined in Germany’s constitution.
Intended to prevent radical groups from gaining influence, it was having precisely the opposite effect, [Bild Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt] said.
“The law against online hate speech failed on its very first day. It should be abolished immediately,” Reichelt wrote, adding that the law was turning AfD politicians into “opinion martyrs”.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas defended the law, telling Bild that freedom of opinion did not mean carte blanche to spread criminal content on the internet.
Germany has some of the world’s toughest laws on defamation, incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities.