On Tuesday, German police raided the homes of 36 people accused of posting “hateful” content on social media. The content in question includes allegedly racist posts and threats.
The raids largely targeted individuals associated with far-right movements hostile to immigration.
“But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation,” reports The New York Times.
While direct threats proclaiming an explicit intention to carry out a violent act may be considered punishable in countries with strong free speech protections like the United States, Germany is notoriously censorious in the Western world insofar as it criminalizes so-called “hate speech” against racial and/or ethnic minorities.
“The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action,” explained Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office in a statement meant to justify the country’s aggressive crackdown against thought crimes. “Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet.”
Equating words with violence and using intentionally vague phrases like “climate of fear,” Münch championed the power of the state as a way to police what people think.
Given Germany’s sordid past as a country that just 70 years ago was gripped by a medieval-age bloodlust against a defenseless Jewish minority libelously blamed for every social ill imaginable, it’s understandable that the Federal Republic of Germany, built upon a collective sense of guilt, would be hyper-sensitive to any rhetoric that might conceivably gin up hostile feelings against groups that have been historically oppressed.
Unfortunately, Germany’s Ministry of Justice, or the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) is refusing to back down on its thought policing. It’s the opposite in fact; it’s doubling down on censorship.
At a parliamentary hearing on Monday, Germans debate “a draft of a new social media law aimed at cracking down on hate speech, a measure that an array of experts said was unconstitutional …” according to The Times.
“The measure, championed by Justice Minister Heiko Maas for passage this month, would fine Facebook, Twitter and other outlets up to $53 million (50 million euros) if they failed to remove hate speech and other forms of illegal content,” notes The Times, adding:
Under German law, social media users are subject to a range of punishments for posting illegal material, including a prison sentence of up to five years for inciting racial hatred.
Under the draft statute, networks must offer a readily available complaint process for posts that may amount to threats, hate speech, defamation, or incitement to commit a crime, among other offenses.
Social media outlets would have 24 hours to delete “obviously criminal content” and a week to decide on more ambiguous cases. The law, approved by Germany’s cabinet in April, would be enforced with fines of up to $53 million.
From twisting the arms of social media companies to censor and erase “hate speech” to raiding the homes of social media posters accused of posting “hate speech,” the German government is ironically sabotaging its own democratic ideals as a way to safeguard against fascist impulses.