Bill to amend the Network Enforcement Act Targeted steps to combat hate crimes

On Wednesday the German government adopted a bill to amend the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz). In this way the German government is translating into practice a project laid out in the coalition agreement. Fighting criminal hate speech on the internet remains necessary and is as topical as ever.

Photo shows a screenshot with hate speech

Hate speech on the internet can be a hotbed for actual attacks on life and limb.

Photo: imago images / photothek

The approach undertaken by the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz), which originally came into effect in 2017, to specify the responsibility of social network providers in dealing with complaints regarding illegal content has essentially proven its worth and is to be retained.

The internet does not exist in a legal vacuum

The bill focuses in particular on the crimes which are increasingly being committed on the internet. Fighting hate speech, especially online, is a particularly important political project, since criminal hate speech can be a hotbed for actual attacks on life and limb. The murder of the Kassel local politician Walter Lübcke and the attacks surround the synagogue in Halle an der Saale clearly illustrate the alarming impacts. This also applies to the extremist attack in Hanau in February 2020. The perpetrator had previously posted and spread racist content in social networks.

Strengthening user rights

This bill builds on the practical experience gained in recent years. Notification channels for complaints about unlawful content are, for instance, to be made more user-friendly. In some cases they are still overly complicated or difficult to find. Information requirements for the half-yearly transparency reports to be submitted by platform operators are to be extended and a direct entitlement to information from service providers created as part of the Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz). This is to apply for users who have been victims of illegal content on social networks.

Mediation units organised under private law

As well as putting in place procedures for users to take steps again unwarranted removal of content on platforms, the bill also lays out possible ways of recognising mediation bodies organised under private law. Finally the provisions of the Directive on audiovisual media services (AVMD-RL) are implemented to provide protection against criminal content on video-sharing platforms.

You will find more information and FAQs about the development of the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz) here.