Germany set out to delete hate speech online. Instead, it made things worse.

Bernhard Rohleder:

The German government’s Network Enforcement Act, which came into effect on Jan. 1, aims to improve law enforcement on the Internet and more effectively fight hate crime. The law targets criminal online offenses including defamation, incitement and sharing unconstitutional symbols, such as the swastika.

But within just a few days of coming into effect, the inevitable has become apparent: legitimate expressions of opinion are being deleted. The law is achieving the opposite of what it intended: it is actually hampering the fight against crime.

The operators of social networks that are subject to the law now have to delete “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours of being notified. Other illegal content must be reviewed by social networks within seven days of being reported and then deleted. If the complaint management requirements are not met, fines of up to 50 million euros may be imposed. This puts companies under tremendous time pressure to check reported content.