“Germany has started enforcing a strict new law around hate speech on social media — and has already launched a criminal investigation into a far-right MP who called Muslims ‘barbarians.’
“The new law, known locally as NetzDG or the Network Enforcement Act, forces social media sites to delete offensive posts. It came into effect on January 1, and covers Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and YouTube, but excludes LinkedIn and WhatsApp…
“Beatrix von Storch is the deputy leader of far-right party AfD and is under investigation by the police for recent inflammatory Facebook and Twitter posts describing Muslims as ‘barbarians.’ In a now-deleted tweet, she complained that Cologne police were tweeting season’s greetings in Arabic and claimed this was trying to appease ‘gang-raping’ Muslims.
“According to reports, she was temporarily blocked from Twitter but has now been reinstated. Von Storch reposted the same message on Facebook on December 31 as a kind of test to see whether it would be deleted.
“It’s likely there will be an influx of cases like von Storch’s now that Germany is enacting its new law. According to Deutsche Welle, the law has been in effect since October, but the German government gave social media firms a three month grace period to adjust to the new systems.
The law dictates that Facebook, Twitter, and other firms must investigate complaints of hate speech on their platforms immediately. They must delete threats of violence, slander, and other hateful content within 24 hours of the complaint, or within a week if the issue is more legally tricky. The government can fine the firms up to €50 million (£45 million) if they don’t comply.
Not everyone is happy about the change. Reporters Without Borders said in July that the ‘Facebook law’ would have a negative impact on press freedom.
“‘The short deadline for removal, coupled with the threat of heavy fines, will very likely drive social networks to remove more content than is legally justified. Even journalistic publications will face a real danger of being affected by this kind over-blocking without due process,’ said the organisation’s executive director for Germany, Christian Mihr, at the time.
This law effectively abolishes free speech online in Germany. This draconian censorship law, though designed to prohibit the expression of ‘hate’ online, will one day, no doubt, be used to limit the presentation of God’s last message to the world via online media. As with almost any loss of freedom, restrictive government laws always start with the purpose to limit extremism. When your faith is considered to be extreme, how will your social media and Internet posts be treated? Your liberty of conscience and liberty of speech is essential to proclaiming God’s last message. Will these be treated as extremism?
“The time was when Protestants placed a high value upon the liberty of conscience which had been so dearly purchased. They taught their children to abhor popery and held that to seek harmony with Rome would be disloyalty to God. But how widely different are the sentiments now expressed!” The Great Controversy, page 563.