(Attention: strong language in eighth paragraph)
* Law setting big fines for social media came in on Jan. 1
* Bild says has had inverse effect, helped anti-migrant party
* Justice minister says law protects freedom of opinion
By Michelle Martin
BERLIN, Jan 4 (Reuters) – A new law meant to curtail hate speech on social media in Germany is stifling free speech and making martyrs out of anti-immigrant politicians whose posts are deleted, the top-selling Bild newspaper said on Thursday.
The law which took effect on Jan. 1 can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly. Twitter has deleted anti-Muslim and anti-migrant posts by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and blocked a satirical account that parodied Islamophobia.
“Please spare us the thought police!” read a headline in Wednesday’s Bild above an article that called the law a “sin” against freedom of opinion enshrined in Germany’s constitution.
The law requires social media sites to delete or block obviously criminal content within 24 hours but Bild Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt said it could be applied against anything and anyone since there was no definition of what was “manifestly unlawful” in most cases.
In Germany, the freedom of speech has officially ended
Germany implements new internet hate speech crackdown
A new German law named NetzDG that will force social media sites to delete offensive content has come into effect with the New Year. There are plenty of critics on both the far-right and among internet activists.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google will need to get used to new rules in Germany from Monday, as a new law comes into effect designed to clamp down on hate speech and illegal content on the internet.
January 1 marks the end of the transitional period of the “network enforcement law” (NetzDG), which forces any internet platform with more than 2 million users to implement more efficient and effective ways to report and delete potentially illegal content. Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram will all come under the new law, though professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing are expressly excluded, as are messaging services like WhatsApp.