A new German law backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel is designed to resist efforts to spread hate speech on the Internet. Social media sites which do not take down fake news posts online could be fined as much as €50m. Members of the German cabinet have supported the motion.
Deterrent To Slander
The law against hate speech on the Internet is in opposition to recent actions taken by groups which use speech designed to stimulate hate online. These include but are not limited to behaviours such as:
- Influencing hostile behaviours by relying on stereotypes regarding groups
- Intimidating speech
- Speech which might result in discriminatory violence
In march, a Syrian refugee took a selfie with Chancellor Merkel and was targeted by trolls. The trolls falsely linked the refugee, Anas Modamani, to terrorism. The selfie was used to create false wanted posters and other malicious images. The spread of fake news would continue unchecked on social media sites as Facebook unless lawmakers made it more costly to do so.
German lawmakers have tried to stop this development before the use of slanderous posts on social media sites such as Facebook gets out of control. By having laws in place, individuals and companies will be encouraged to take greater responsibility for what they post or allow to be posted online via their websites.
Supports International Law On Hate Speech
Human rights treaties not only encourage, but require states to forbid hate speech. Incitement to genocide and several other forms of hate speech are seen as criminal acts under international law.
The motion comes at an opportune time, since false posts could also be used to influence the coming election in Germany. Germany has laws in place which cover incitement, threats and hate speech. The recent law against hate speech on the Internet adds to penalties such as prison sentences which are already enforceable.