New law to combat right-wing extremism and hate crime on the internet
Germany is promoting legislation to better counter the harsh effects of extremist and antisemitic discourse on the net, as well as to more effectively confront hate crimes.
The new legislation, to some extent, shifts the balance between freedom of expression and hate speech, and strengthens prosecution authorities in dealing with hate speech and hate crimes, emphasizing their characteristics and antisemitic motives.
It is noteworthy that in order to implement the legislative amendments, changes were required in a large number of laws, including the Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Federal Registration Act, Federal Criminal Police Office Act, Telemedia Act, Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), and others.
We call on people who can help promote this type of legislation in their country to do so.
On July 3, 2020 in Berlin, the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament) passed a new law to combat right-wing extremism and hate crime on the internet. The Bundestag (Lower House of German Parliament) already approved the new regulations in mid-June, after the cabinet had passed the bill in February.
The practical significance of this legislation:
Whoever spreads Nazi propaganda, hatred of Jews, death threats etc. in Germany on the internet must expect to be more easily discovered in the future. Moreover, higher penalties are imposed for hate messages on the internet.
In the future, social networks such as Facebook or Twitter will not only need to delete posts containing neo-Nazi propaganda, incitement to hatred or threats of murder and rape, but immediately report these to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). In order to quickly identify the perpetrators, they will also have to pass on IP addresses. In the case of particularly serious crimes such as terrorism and homicides, a judge’s decision will also allow passwords to be required.
If the passwords are stored in encrypted form by the providers, they must also be transmitted in the same way.
Critics doubt whether the judiciary can handle the expected number of proceedings. The Federal Ministry of Justice expects 150,000 cases annually.
To this end, Justice Minister Christina Lambrecht announced the creation of new positions.
What exactly will be punishable?
Threats of bodily injury or sexual assault or threats, such as setting fire to a car, will in the future be treated in a similar way to death threats. For such statements on the internet, prison sentences of up to two years will be imposed, and up to three years for public death threats. Insults on the internet will also be punished with up to two years imprisonment.
At present, it is only punishable if one publicly advocates support for acts that have already been committed. In the future, this will also apply to announced offences. In addition to federal and state politicians, local politicians will also be expressly placed under the special protection of the Criminal Code in the future. Attacks on medical personnel in emergency rooms, on doctors and nurses will in the future be punishable by up to five years imprisonment, as is already the case today for attacks on police officers, firefighters and soldiers.
The law will not come into force until the fourth quarter of this year, which is Oct 1, 2020.