New Online Hate Speech Law in Germany Levels Fines in the Millions

Critics say it’s turning people into “opinion martyrs.”

Germany started the new year off with a new law on the books that targets online hate speech. But according to the top-selling newspaper in the country, Bild, it’s already turning people into “opinion martyrs.”

Reuters reports that “the law requires social media sites to delete or block obviously criminal content within 24 hours” and “can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly.” The “far-right” Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been the first on the receiving end of the new policy. Twitter has deleted posts from the AfD deemed anti-Muslim and anti-migrant. An Islamophobia parody account was also blocked. 

The report highlighted two tweets from AfD politicians that were deleted. Beatrix von Storch criticized police for seeking “to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men.” There are indeed  “rapist hordes” of Muslims in Germany, especially on New Year’s Eve, yet police are investigating Beatrix for “possible incitement to hatred.”

Jens Maier, another AfD politician, found one of his tweets deleted in which he described someone as a “half-nigger.”

On Wednesday, Bild ran the following headline in protest: “Please spare us the thought police!”

Editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt believes the law is turning AfD politicians into “opinion martyrs” and should be completely scrapped.

"The law against online hate speech failed on its very first day,” he said. “It should be abolished immediately.” 

Reichelt said the wording of the law could be applied to just about anything because there is no hard definition of what makes a post “manifestly unlawful.”

As Reuters notes in its report, “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.”

Those defending the new law says having an opinion doesn’t give a person license to spread hatred.

"Calls to murder, threats, insults and incitement of the masses or Auschwitz lies are not an expression of freedom of opinion but rather attacks on the freedom of opinion of others," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said. “Those who care about protecting freedom of opinion can't just look on as criminal incitement and threats inhibit the open exchange of views." 

Looks like Germany is getting back to its totalitarian roots.