nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

back to article
Tick-tick... boom: Germany gives social media giants 24 hours to tear down hate speech

Gimp

*******

<This comment has been witheld pending moderation by Frau Merkel>

36
6
Anonymous Coward

Re: *******

To tell the truth... a few days ago I was looking at the comments at the bottom of articles in more or less random "mainstream" news sites. It was an interesting exercise.

Now, having in the past worked in an occupation that gave me access to people's private lives across all socioeconomic classes (emergency services), I am well aware that humankind is still a remarkably primitive species, but even so I was wondering if comments on those sites are not bot-generated. I do not know why they would be, but they just seemed too gratuitously malicious for someone to actually bother writing that kind of stuff.

In hindsight, at least on El Reg one can have some sort of reasoned discussion with some regularity (although even here, at certain times of the day when moderation is not so active, you do get to see a small sample of the kind of stuff that mods have to deal with--respect to them).

So in short, if a small outlet such as El Reg can invest on policing what gets posted in the interest of maintaining a minimum of decency (along the lines of "do not be an arse"), then surely bigger organisations can do at least as good a job of it.

10
5
E 2

Re: *******

Understandably the comment at The Reg are more reasoned: they're moderated.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: *******

Bread and Roses.

0
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Ha

"the real attack on freedom of expression were hate-speech posts."

And so block hate-speech to protect freedom of expression. Because hate-speech is not expressing yourself... erm.... or its not expressing in a way that they deem right or correct! Such as...erm... whatever the gov decides is right or wrong. Such as when the EU stated they would not work with the Austrian right wing party and would help the French block a NF win. But this is only a Germany thing and not an EU thing so we are ok. Until the Germans cant handle the scope of the problem (migration for another example) and then it will be an EU matter.

But dont worry, this is all for the protection of freedom of expression. And I am sure the definition of hate speech will only be terrorism. Or extremism. Or political extremism. Or anything said in hatred. Unless its a hate filled lefty speech which might be ok. If the gov agrees with it.

30
11
Anonymous Coward

Re: Ha

> Because hate-speech is not expressing yourself... erm.... or its not expressing in a way that they deem right or correct!

"Hate speech" has a sufficiently descriptive name that a reasonable person should have a good guess as to why it is not acceptable.

But in case this needs spelling out, from a legalistic point of view the problem with such speech is that it interferes with the dignity of other people. That being something which, since 1948 and in the aftermath of unprecedented turmoil, has been decided that it must be protected.

As the declaration says, human dignity is the basis of freedom, justice, and peace¹.

> Such as...erm... whatever the gov decides is right or wrong

Governments are bound by what is called international law. They are compelled to act within its boundaries and uphold its principles, and most of the time most governments follow most of the law².

This is why they are obliged to uphold human dignity and therefore combat hate speech, so that freedom of speech can exist.

¹ Those of us who have experienced armed conflict know this only too well.

² Can anyone remember who was the diplomat who said that or something to the effect?

8
12
Silver badge
Devil

Re: Ha

"Hate speech" has a sufficiently descriptive name that a reasonable person should have a good guess as to why it is not acceptable.

BS. Currently the term "hate" is defined as anything that goes against political correctness, and as such it's a marvelously flexible tool. Leftists frequently use it to silence/demonize/arrest practically any publicly vocal person or organization they oppose, even one of their own if necessary.

Germany hopes the internet will auto-regulate according to their hate definition. Hey, it's called hate for a reason, right? What's not to hate...?

18
11
Anonymous Coward

Oh the irony

"political correctness" is itself an infinitely flexible, but ultimately meaningless term.

I'm sick of yank politics, because none of it is grounded in political theory. It's just mud-slinging between the equally stupid left and right.

13
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: Ha

> BS.

Admittedly, I only took one semester of international law so I am far from an expert.

> Currently the term "hate" is defined as anything that goes against political correctness

Please note that "hate speech" is a colloquial reference. In the present case, what is being clarified is the responsibility of certain actors acting as content providers in reference to the crimes of incitement to hatred on the basis of certain protected characteristics and attacks on human dignity. May I ask if you read German?

> Leftists

The federal government is a grand coalition led by two conservative partners. The Chancellor, Dr Merkel, is an East German belonging to one of those conservative parties.

> Germany hopes the internet will auto-regulate according to their hate definition.

I think, my dear chap, that you are slightly confused. Forgive me the insistence, but could I ask you again if you are capable of reading German? In the event that you are not, perhaps this article from the English edition of a well-known German news publication may help clarify the problem that legislators are attempting to address.

10
5
Silver badge

Re: Ha

"The federal government is a grand coalition led by two conservative partners. The Chancellor, Dr Merkel, is an East German belonging to one of those conservative parties."

Only as far as it is Germans who get to define "conservative."

7
7
Silver badge

Re: Ha

> Only as far as it is Germans who get to define "conservative."

They don't actually define conservatism, they just define their own far left stance as the middle of the political spectrum. So much simpler that way...

6
9
Silver badge

Re: Oh the irony

"I'm sick of yank politics, because none of it is grounded in political theory. It's just mud-slinging between the equally stupid left and right."

Hey, at least we have a Right. I hear that most of Europe has criminalized the Right, in accordance with their "political theories."

7
12
Big Brother

Re: Ha

Insisting twice "May I ask if you read German?" as A.C is actually funny, I am sure you do (read German).

Someone who leads with "Chancellor Dr Merkel" and recommends that "well-known German news publication" spiegel.de, I call "Schmalztrompete" (pollyanna for the unprivileged).

What I think about that addressing legislator would probably fall under the hate speech clause...

1
5
Thumb Up

Re: Ha

@ Grass Mud Horse

Good one. I saw the same "signs" when I read this.

BTW if you're ever lost for words, "might I recommend this?, if you speak German"

http://www.gerstlauer.de/andreas/fun/warmduscher.html

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Oh the irony

But I guess from where you're standing you'd need binoculars to see any other points on the political spectrum.

2
1

Re: Ha

>Please note that "hate speech" is a colloquial reference. In the present case, what is being clarified is >the responsibility of certain actors acting as content providers in reference to the crimes of incitement >to hatred on the basis of certain protected characteristics and attacks on human dignity. May I ask if >you read German?

As a German I am fully aware of the contents of the new law and I am deeply unhappy about the introduction of another rubber term into a law.

>The federal government is a grand coalition led by two conservative partners. The Chancellor, Dr >Merkel, is an East German belonging to one of those conservative parties.

To describe the grand coalition as conservative is believing denominators more than the actual actiions of this plitical entity.

>I think, my dear chap, that you are slightly confused. Forgive me the insistence, but could I ask you >again if you are capable of reading German? In the event that you are not, perhaps this article from >the English edition of a well-known German news publication may help clarify the problem that >legislators are attempting to address.

Citing DER SPIEGEL in this case illustrates your confusion about german politics. This once renowned magazine has drifted under the youger Augstein well to the left of the political spectrum.

2
0
Gimp

all you need to do is change the name

I don't read German, thus I believed the article's characterization.

Now, I find the law to be an abomination. But it it would be relatively easy for me to support it. Just rename it to something like: Social Media Reduction Act

where the point is to reduce overall use of social media sites. That I could get behind, and more to the point, it would have the same effect. We are rapidly degenerating to a point where the only legal thing you can do is remain silent.

18
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: all you need to do is change the name

We are rapidly degenerating to a point where the only legal thing you can do is remain silent.

*Knock Knock*

"Yes?"

"Open up! You are under investigation for excessive silence! Our AI predicts imminent extra-suspicious behaviour!"

22
1
Silver badge

Re: all you need to do is change the name

He was a loner, never spoke to anyone and stayed away from social media; clearly he hated everyone so we put him in prison.

18
1
Anonymous Coward

This absolutely, positively will not be misused by cranks looking to hassle people with whom they disagree. I mean, sure, it was totally misused when community policing went into effect on Twitter and YouTube, but things will be different this time.

17
1
Silver badge
Childcatcher

And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

And is that definition in any way accurate?

And is Germany going to enforce this extra-territorialy?

I'm concerned, considering that Germany has a poor track record on freedom of speech that strays from accepted religious, historical and political norms.

19
7
Silver badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

I hope there is otherwise this becomes nothing more than a way of controlling the population is allowed to see. A typical STASI control technique, so it is to be expected.

15
5

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

Some things are lost in translation or cultural context. In this case hate speech. Germany has laws defining it. Although the translation should not be hate speech, but rabble rousing, defamation, sedition, incitement of the masses. Hate speech in english does not get it right. By the way: These laws came after WWII and were "suggested" by the allies.

This rabble rousing and some other "non free speech" thingies like defamation were always illegal in Germany. Even online. Only the enforcement was sometimes problematic, because offenders were hiding behind FB and others. And FB hides behind their rules, eben though the US definition of hate speech has only a nodding acquaintance with the German one. FB deletes posts for violations that are fully allowed in Germany, but okays forbidden posts.

And there is a fine distinction between hate speech and free speech. If you say " I think, these butterflies. should be burned" Then you are in free speech country. "You must burn these butterflies, now." like you were doing this on a marketplace with intend to do incite the masses to do so could get you into problems.

An this is my bone with this law:

The almost fully dropped judical oversight. Outsourcing control to a private company (FB). This will curb free speech. FB will proactively delete allowed posts to avoid being fined. This is something for the police and then judges. The law has still to clear the "Bundesrat", the assembly of the states. As this is a federal law, they can only delay, but that could get it past the end of the term of the current parliament in spetember. Then it will be void.

I think the law will either not be signed by the federal president or struck by the constitutional court.

15
1
Silver badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

Hate speech is very clearly defined in German law and has been illegal for decades, so there is a lot of precedence. The problem here, in Germany, is that any other media has to retract hate speech, pay fines and issue appologies, just the web and social media has had a free pass until now.

On the positive side, they passed the law for gay marriage yesterday and they banned Donald Trump...

11
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

> Some things are lost in translation or cultural context. In this case hate speech. Germany has laws defining it. Although the translation should not be hate speech, but rabble rousing, defamation, sedition, incitement of the masses. Hate speech in english does not get it right. By the way: These laws came after WWII and were "suggested" by the allies.

> This rabble rousing and some other "non free speech" thingies like defamation were always illegal in Germany. Even online.

An excellent summary, thank you!

> An this is my bone with this law:

> The almost fully dropped judical oversight. Outsourcing control to a private company (FB).

That is good point and a very legitimate concern. However, I do not think it removes judicial oversight. I think it merely gives the judiciary a means to enforce the already existing laws and reminds the likes of FB to comply with those.

> This will curb free speech. FB will proactively delete allowed posts to avoid being fined.

Maybe, or maybe not. It does really depend on the moderation stance being taken. In principle, there is no reason why FB cannot adjust their moderation policies to something that takes a view of the concept of freedom of expression that is a bit less aligned with the idea that US media¹ have of it.

¹ Which does not particularly reflect the position of US courts in the matter either.

4
3
Bronze badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

In Germany, even questioning the established narrative of certain historical events (most famously the Holocaust) is illegal. People literally go to jail for years for this.

Restricting speech because the speaker has the wrong opinion on something clearly goes way beyond restricting direct incitements to violence or such.

6
4
Stop

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

You can ban hate speech, but you can never ban HATE!!!

Hate speech is the safety valve, block it, and the big BANG will happen much sooner...

6
3
Silver badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

"Restricting speech because the speaker has the wrong opinion on something clearly goes way beyond restricting direct incitements to violence or such."

I don't think flat out denying that the Holocaust ever happened qualyfies as "having the wrong opinion".

5
1
Bronze badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

So, saying that it's your opinion that something didn't happen doesn't count as having an opinion about it if the subject is controversial enough. Got it.

2
5
Silver badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

I expect the Germans are touchy about the holocaust given their history, but what exactly do you need to question about it?

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

Whether or not someone else perceives your "need" to say something should not be a prerequisite for being allowed to say it. That's part of the whole freedom of speech thing.

Just as whether or not someone else perceives your speech as offensive, factually wrong or just plain stupid should not be a reason to prohibit it.

Look - you should read some of the things that Germany considers "illegal hate speech".

Take the writings of Germar Rudolf for example. Germany has literally imprisoned him for years, banned his books, destroyed the books already in circulation (an old-fashioned state-sanctioned book burning!), and confiscated the proceeds from the sale.

Is his overall conclusion wrong? Most likely.

Is there any shred of "hate", incitement to violence, or anything except an attempt at civilized discourse anywhere in the banned writings? No.

Is he a Nazi, perhaps acting as part of some banned group with a violent agenda? No. His motive is essentially that the German genocide of Jews is being used to justify the post-war genocide of Germans.

(I'm not linking anything here but use a search engine located in a country with something actually resembling freedom of speech and you'll find his personal site)

Again - disagreeing with someone is not a valid justification for banning him from saying it. Even if it hurts someone's feelings, or a lot of persons feelings. Even if it's provably wrong, on the "Earth is flat" level of moronity. Even if literally everyone else in the whole world think there's no "need" to say it.

1
1

Re: And is there an actual definition of hate speech attached to this bill?

It is not. There is no definition at all attached.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Thought Experiment

Step 1 - Disable FB access to IP addresses associated with German ISPs

Step 2 - Redirect traffic from those IP addresses to a page listing the names of the politicians that voted for the Network Enforcement Act

Step 3 - Title the page "We'll be back when they're gone"

I wonder how the German people would react? Would they be inclined to close ranks in solidarity with their legislators? Is there a sufficient quantity of German FB addicts that would break out the proverbial torches and pitchforks and issue recall demands? How much power could Zuck truly wield if he had the will?

11
3
Anonymous Coward

bedbugs

Interesting law. I find myself trying to craft scenarios that end up costing FB et al 50M.

Bedbugs are the scourge of the earth. You can never kill enough of them either, one or two escape. That is when you have to find torture implements. Open flame, smashed to oblivion, or just suffocated. Nothing is too good for them, lest they procreate. It is important to make an example of them too!

8
0
Anonymous Coward

I hate the trains in this country!

I hate it when the toast lands butter side down!

I hate it when I follow through!

Am I doing this hate speech thing right? Who decides what is right and what is wrong?

Silly law not thought out properly and a knee jerk reaction or a clever way of censoring opinions you don't agree with or that criticise the government.

Will the German government be allowed to inform facebook and others of what they consider hate speech and have it removed?

14
3
Silver badge

Watchit, AC. We don't want to see El Reg get fined 50 million Euros now, do we?

5
0
Silver badge

Hating the trains is OK, but saying you want to attack the railway staff probably isn't.

3
2
Silver badge

I hate twats in another country thinking they can tell me what I can and can't fucking say. {Hate speech}. I bet they are, to a person, fat bastards who sleep with close family members. (Defamation). We must take action, brethren and sistren! We must bitch about the ugly tosspots on the internet until they are slightly uncomfortable! (More defamation; sedition, and rabble-rousing...hat trick!).

Think that's the bases covered....

3
3

"no one should be above the law"

accept Hillary Clinton... Hillary is "above the law".

albeit, that's not Germany's fault.

5
20
Silver badge
WTF?

@DagD -- Re: "no one should be above the law"

Bitte versuchen Sie, auf Thema zu bleiben, Arschloch!

8
1
Silver badge

Re: "no one should be above the law"

accept Hillary Clinton

I will never accept Hilary Clinton.

I would probably except her though.

10
1
Silver badge

Re: "no one should be above the law"

"I will never accept Hilary Clinton.

I would probably except her though."

Close with the grammar trolling, but you didn't manage to stick the landing, falling over that spare 'l' that you left out of Hillary.

4
2
Silver badge
Trollface

Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

Because it seems the US definition of "antisemitism" is being rammed down the legal pipes hard:

International Campaign is Criminalizing Criticism of Israel as “Anti-semitism”

Especially in Germany, this might be hugely successful.

14
4
Silver badge

Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

"International Campaign is Criminalizing Criticism of Israel as “Anti-Semitism"

Shocking. Especially that the UK has apparently adopted that twisted definition.”

10
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

Which one are you referring to? Off the top of my head and not counting failed States (Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Palestine although not a State, Yemen, …), you have Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran. In addition, all monarchies in the region have freely elected representatives at least at the sub-national level. In the case of Bahrain, and ignoring the obvious historical, cultural, and societal differences, the system itself is not altogether unlike the United Kingdom's.

4
3
Silver badge

Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

"Shocking. Especially that the UK has apparently adopted that twisted definition."

Sadly, that does seem to be true.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

AC, what gives you the idea that Syria was a failed state?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

> AC, what gives you the idea that Syria was a failed state?

It wasn't. It is now, sadly.

Btw, I lived in the Middle East for many years and I have a special fondness for that region, so very sad to see what is going these days.

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Better not say anything bad about The Only Democracy in the ME

Turkey a democracy? You didn't notice that successful coup (Yes, it was successful, the fools that were on the streets just failed to understand their role) that took place then, followed by the locking up of teachers, lecturers, academics, judges, anyone who opposed Erdoğan?

3
0
Silver badge
Alert

Hoo-boy!

I'm sure the most revered Bundestag has come up with a clear, unambiguous, objective and measurable definition of what constitutes "hate-speech". I mean, after all, that what they do, right?

Who knows? Maybe they will share it with the rest of us?

6
3

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing