🇩🇪 Will the German crackdown on online hate speech come overseas?

Because of a new law inspired by the murder of a pro-refugee politician who had been targeted online, German tech companies will have to report potential hate speech to federal authorities as soon as they become aware of it. 

  • Like in the U.S., Germany has a hate speech controversy: And government authorities believe online hate speech is leading to a rise in popularity of extremist groups.

  • There’s plenty of opposition to the new law: Opponents say the hate speech reports will end up in a database where the government will be able to easily access personal data of users and build up cases against them. They fear the government would be able to do this for anything turned in by tech companies, even if the questionable material does not constitute hate speech.   

This isn’t Germany’s first attempt to crack down on hate speech

Since 2017, the government has threatened tech companies with massive fines if they didn’t clean up what the government believed to be hate speech on its own. That ruling still applies. And free-speech advocates have been concerned tech companies will be generous with censoring speech in order to avoid the spectre of a fine. 

The Verdict

America is in the early stages of putting more pressure on tech and social media companies to police potential hate speech. But the efforts are being affected by partisanship and an attempt by Donald Trump to punish tech companies for censoring speech (particularly his own speech).