As of January 1, Germany has had a new social media hate speech law in effect, known as NetzDG, and as the country rang in the new year, it didn’t take very long for the law to stir up a fresh round of criticisms as Alternative for Germany (AfD) party member Beatrix von Storch found herself guilty for posting an anti-muslim tweet.
The tweet came after the Cologne police used their social media accounts to post New Year’s greetings and safety information in a variety of languages, including Arabic. Von Storch was outraged by the police department’s accommodations to the city’s Arab population, a group found largely responsible for a mass sexual assault in the city on New Years Eve just two years earlier, and took action with a tweet that read: “What the hell is happening in this country? Why is an official police site tweeting in Arabic? Do you think it is to appease the barbaric, gang-raping hordes of Muslim men?”
#PolizeiNRW #Köln #Leverkusen
تتمنى الشرطة في كولن لجميع الناس في منطقة كولن وليفركوزن والمدن الأخرى إحتفالاً سعيداً بعام 2018 الجديد.
https://t.co/G5erMWFNQyرأس السنة 2017 ـ لمزيد المعلومات: # pic.twitter.com/BGxs4Kew7K
— Polizei NRW K (@polizei_nrw_k) December 31, 2017
Not long after hitting “Publish”, von Storch found her tweet deleted and account locked under the new NetzDG law that went into effect that same day. Her account remained locked for 12 hours and a similar censorship was passed down by Facebook.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been critical of Germany’s moves to censor the social media networks for such displays of hate speech, but with fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million) on the line, it appears the companies are not going to play it safe… even if that means taking down some of Germany’s own leadership. In this specific incident, it was the Cologne police who filed the hate speech complaint with both Twitter and Facebook.
The AfD party will surely see themselves falling victim to the new hate speech law as it is a party that has had no shame in stirring up social controversy with its leader’s statements. And while the party’s strongest opponents will most certainly laud the new law’s effect, other’s will be using cases like von Storch’s to investigate whether or not the law is going too far with censorship.