Germany’s recent fake news ban is already being abused by would-be censors
The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law, which came into force in October, requires social media websites to remove “fake news” and “hate speech” or risk fines of up to 50 million euros (40 million pounds).
While intended to stop the spread of disinformation and hateful rhetoric online, recently published “local law” complaints show that would-be censors are using NetzDG to target all variety of content, including mainstream news stories, sexual words and images, an anti-Nazi online forum, and criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and of the NetzDG law itself.
That’s according to the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown requests.
Anti-NetzDG campaign: “Think ban on criticism” (source)
German author Martin Hilpert was among the first to be targeted for allegedly committing “criminal offences” under NetzDG.
On his Google Plus profile, Hilpert has published dozens of posts criticising Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policies and calling for her immediate dismissal.
In October, Google received a request to remove “problematic” content from Hilpert’s account on the basis that his political views allegedly constitute “hate speech or political extremism” under NetzDG.
He’s not the only one in the cross hairs.
The complaint against FAZ states that the newspaper engaged in “harmful or dangerous acts” for a story about NATO, while the complaint against Heise states that the tech website engaged in “hate speech or political extremism” for publishing concerns by the EU Commission that NetzDG could lead to “possible abuse by governments seeking to limit freedom of expression.”
From there, the censorious slope only gets slippier.
A separate takedown request for a photo of a snowman dressed like Hitler (allegedly containing “terrorist or unconstitutional content”) is probably unlikely to win over skeptics of the new bán.
Next on the list of offending items, a perennial favourite of the would-be censor: sex.
Targets include a book of semi-nude photos of model Emily Ratajkowski (“sexual discrimination”), a forum for “friends to talk and exchange” that includes a soft focus nude photo (“pornographic”), and a public invitation for sex (“indecent”).
While the few examples included here are all still available to view online, hundreds more aren’t.
As reported by Politico, last month Twitter deleted tweets by satirical magazine Titanic, comedian Sophie Passmann, and far-right politician Beatrix von Storch after receiving local law complaints.
It’s unclear how social media platforms determine what constitutes fake news.