Less freedom of expression in Social Media?


The influence of the Federal government at Social Media giants from the US is limited, even in the fight against Hate Speech. The network enforcement of the law is to change that. But it could cause collateral damage.

“How much do we have to endure as a society, to allow freedom of expression?”, Bernhard Rohleder, Director General of the industry Association Bitkom asked at a recent discussion on the so-called network enforcement of the law. He warns of the law, the draft of which will be debated on Monday in the Committee on legal Affairs of the Bundestag. Critics complain that it is a “Lex Facebook”. Even if it relates to Twitter or Instagram alike, because all the social networks with more than two million users were including.

Law to combat “Hate Speech” and “Fake News”

The Federal Minister of justice Heiko Maas (SPD) wants to oblige with the law of large Social networks to regularly report on their handling of “hate crime and other criminal content” as well as Fake News.

Within 24 hours, the network operators reported hate to delete comments with an obviously illegal content. For other illegal content, there is a deletion period of seven days. To decide the operators themselves, what needs to be deleted. Fines up to five thousand euros, in the case of repetitions, and even up to 50 million euros. In addition, an “effective complaint management” and a “domestic” point of contact be prescribed.

The resistance of the network operator is large. Ultimately, it is also a question of their business model. Many users bring a lot of advertisers – the Users and their data are the goods in the network.

The Federal Minister of justice Heiko Maas: Sharp criticism of his network-law

Anticipatory Censorship?

The industry Association Bitkom has given a legal opinion in order, which stated: “Both hate crime as well as false news are not their own legal concepts. Rather, they describe phenomena of unfair dissozialer, but also non-criminal communications.”

As the “other illegal content” on the draft law under nearly two dozen “crimes” is also a “disparagement of the state, its symbols, or of the Federal President”. This point, warns Frank Anywhere, Chairman of the German journalists Association, could serve others, less democratic States as a blueprint, against freedom of expression. Because, in particular, freedom of expression also guarantees the right to criticism of governments.

The Bitkom-expert Karl-Heinz Ladeur and Tobias Gostomzyk fear that Facebook & co. be deleted in case of complaints in the future, premature comments, in order to avoid a penalty million. “Over blocking” is the technical term. Others speak of a “Chilling Effect”, i.e. the deterrence, and the Bonn lawyer, Daniel Zimmer writes in the “Frankfurt General newspaper” of a “(MIS-)incentive to generous deletion”.

Cross-Party Criticism

Across all parties, the draft is under attack. Tenor: private company decided, in the future, about freedom of expression and vulnerable you may be – the existing legislation was sufficient. “Heiko Maas, has not worked – for the umpteenth time, cleanly, and an impression of immature act submitted”, criticized the Union is group Deputy Arnold Vaatz.

The CSU deputies Iris Eberl has ordered two expert opinions to the scientific service of the Bundestag. Result: The law interfere unfairly in the freedom of expression. AfD lead candidate Alexander Gauland announced that the AfD Federal Executive will submit a constitutional complaint, should be decided on the law.

The EU believes to have a better way found, against the wrong messages to proceed

EU-Commission for a voluntary agreement

In the ranks of the critics also of the Federal Council, the UN joins Envoy for freedom of expression and the EU-anti-Semitism officer. You have chosen at the European level, a different approach against illegal Hate Speech, said Katharina von schnurbein, the EU anti-Semitism commissioned, in front of the DW.

A year ago, the EU has agreed on a Commission with the Social Media Code of Conduct. The company will undertake to inspect any Postings and to delete, where appropriate, within 24 hours of receipt of a complaint. More than 30 civil society organizations to monitor compliance with. Thus, the freedom of expression would be taken into better account, so of cord leg.

A report by the EU Commissioner for justice, Vera Jourova, accounted for a “significant progress”. The complaint management and the staff, as well as the cooperation with the civil society have become better. Facebook, for example, have doubled the share of deleted posts within a period of six months, to around 66 percent.

UN representative for freedom of expression concerned

The Test of illegality on social networks, argues the Federal Council in a statement that is a matter for the police and the courts. The countries of the chamber also suggested a Cleraringstelle, where the Affected could complain if a Statement has not been deleted, which was, in their opinion, unlawful.

The UN Envoy for freedom of expression, David Kaye, calls in a request to the Federal government, to consider whether the law restricting the freedom of expression and the right to privacy, so international human rights law. Kaye doubts that the company took into account the possible context of a post is appropriate. Anticipatory censorship would collide with international law, to get full access to all of the opinions on the Internet. Critical Kaye also sees that interventions in the Posts affected the right to anonymity.

Alliance for the law: the group leaders of the CDU and the SPD, Volker Kauder (left) and Thomas Oppermann (right)

First, the legal Affairs Committee, the plenary of the Bundestag

On Monday, the legal Committee of the Bundestag is listening to experts. The Committee Chairman Renate Künast of the Green has made its Position on the draft law is already clear: “it’s All piece work, huge mess.” Now the Ministry of justice intends to submit a toned down design With more room in the seven-day period and a more cautious limit for fines, which should only be in the case of systematic failure of the social networks due.

The two group leaders of the CDU/CSU and the SPD, Volker Kauder, and Thomas Oppermann, wanted to bring the law, supposedly with all the violence through Parliament. The decision of the Cabinet came, in April, the first reading in the Bundestag was in may, the proposed adoption will be in June. Kauder argued that the platforms were already committed for a long time, to delete any reported illegal content. However, the previous deletion practice was “absolutely unsatisfactory”. Also, the Minister of justice appointed the Task Force had little success.

Now the time is running. It is up to the end of June, no agreement, lands of the draft in the trash. Because then it would be because of the parliamentary summer break in this legislature, no longer a session. Many critics would certainly make it easier.