Big tech opposes Germany’s enhanced hate speech law

With the new amendment, the BKA expects to receive about 250,000 reports per year under the NetzDG, which would result in about 150,000 criminal proceedings. EPA-EFE/ARMANDO BABANI [ARMANDO BABANI/EPA]

The amendment to Germany’s Network Enforcement Act known as NetzDG on combatting hate speech online comes into force on Tuesday (1 February) but some of the largest online platforms refuse to cooperate. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The amended law introduces requirements for online platforms with over two million users, such as Google or Facebook, to pass on information to the authorities for criminal prosecutions. They are also obligated to delete content that violates criminal law and report it to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

But these new obligations – initially destined for big online platforms – have been temporarily put on hold.

Google, Meta, Twitter and Tik Tok have filed a lawsuit against the amended law before the Cologne Administrative Court.

As a result of the ongoing lawsuits, the German Ministry of Justice has promised the two corporations Meta, which includes Facebook and Instagram, and Google, the parent company of YouTube, that it will not require them to report until the administrative court has made a decision. It is yet unclear when the Cologne court will decide on the matter.

It is also unknown if the justice ministry will also decide on an exemption for Twitter and Tik Tok.

With the new amendment, the BKA expects to receive about 250,000 reports per year under the NetzDG, which would result in about 150,000 criminal proceedings.

To process the expected increase in reports, the BKA has set up the ‘Central Reporting Office for Criminal Content on the Internet’ or ZMI.

About 200 officers will facilitate the “consistent prosecution of the authors of such criminal content”, a BKA spokesperson told newspaper RND.

As long as the obligation for large online platforms to report illegal content to the BKA remains suspended, this task will temporarily be carried out by other state reporting institutions combating hate speech, research by Der Spiegel shows.

However, EU law provisions could soon supersede the NetzDG.

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which is currently being negotiated, has a similar thrust as the NetzDG and provides strict online platform requirements. German politicians, therefore, often interpret the NetzDG as a blueprint for the DSA.

Negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament on the DSA are already in full swing and started on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced his intention to finalise the DSA while France holds the EU Council Presidency, which runs until the end of June.

DSA: MEPs gear up for negotiations ahead of kick-off trilogue

The lawmakers representing the different political groups met on Wednesday (26 January) to iron down the political priorities in view of the first political trilogue of the Digital Services Act (DSA) that will take place on 31 January.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/ Alice Taylor]

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