Germany to tighten hate speech and gun laws to fight far right

The German government on Wednesday approved a draft law to crack down on the far right, three weeks after a deadly attack by an alleged neo-Nazi targeting a synagogue.

Germany to tighten hate speech and gun laws to fight far right
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet signed off on a raft of measures that in
particular target weapons sales and hate speech online.

The bill must still be approved by parliament.

“The threat from far-right extremism and far-right terrorism, and with them anti-Semitism, is high in Germany and we can't stress it often enough,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told a news conference.

Germany had already in 2017 passed one of the most restrictive laws in the world to combat racist and incendiary speech online, requiring social media giants to remove illegal content or risk fines of up to €50 million.

READ ALSO: Is a new German law encouraging social media giants to censor opinions?

It came after the arrival of more than one million asylum-seekers since 2015 fuelled far-right propaganda, and gives companies such as Twitter and Facebook 24 hours to remove posts that openly violate German law after they are flagged by users.

Detractors have criticised the law as curbing free speech and putting internet companies in the role of censors.

The new legislation goes further, compelling internet companies to flag problematic content including death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police.

Law enforcement authorities will have the power to order online platforms
to provide them with user data in these cases for possible criminal prosecution.

Internet is not a 'lawless zone'

“It has to be clear that the internet is not a lawless zone and that while free speech reigns in the digital as well as the analogue world, it reaches its limits when it breaks the criminal code,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht told reporters.

The measures will also make it more difficult for firearms to land in the hands of criminals.

The domestic intelligence watchdog will review arms purchases to make sure the buyer is not a known sympathiser with radical movements.

The measures come three weeks after a right-wing extremist who had posted a racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic manifesto online tried and failed to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

READ ALSO: What we know about the synagogue shooting in Halle

When he was unable to blast open the locked door of the temple, he shot and
killed two non-Jewish Germans — one on the street outside and another at a Turkish snack shop.

Seehofer noted the fact that his weapons — reportedly built using a 3D printer — repeatedly failed to fire had prevented a potential “massacre”.

“I don't even want to imagine what might have happened in Halle if we had
American-style gun laws” Seehofer said, referring to the far less restrictive
weapons legislation in the United States.

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Denmark proposes new law to make Facebook pay for news and music

The government is to forward a bill on Friday proposing tech giants such as Facebook and Google pay Danish media for using content on their platforms.

Denmark proposes new law to make Facebook pay for news and music
File photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The proposal will also mean platforms used to share media, such as YouTube, will be required to make agreements with rights holders in order to display videos or music, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

A comparable law recently took effect in Australia, resulting in all news pages being temporarily blocked for Facebook users in the southern hemisphere country.

READ ALSO: Could Denmark force Facebook to pay for news content?

“The media plays a central role in our democracy and ensures that public debate takes place on an infrormed basis,”culture minister Joy Mogensen said in the statement.

“If the media are to be able to continue making journalism, they should of course be paid for its use,” she added.

The proposal will provide for rights holders such as musicians or media outlets to be given a new publishing right which will enable them to decide who can use their content.

As such, companies like Facebook and Google will need permission to use the content online.

The Danish proposal builds on an EU directive which gives individual media outlets the right to agree deals with tech giants.

The bill put forward by Mogensen will allow Danish media to make a collective agreement with the tech companies providing for payment when their content is used.

An interest organisation for Danish media companies has backed the proposal.

“We have wanted to be able to enter collective agreements with tech giants because that would strengthen the media companies’ position,” Louise Brincker, CEO of Danske Medier, told newspaper Berlingske. Brincker noted she had not yet read the full proposal.

Media will not be obliged to make agreements with the tech companies, however. Complaints to the Danish copyright board, Ophavsretslicensnævnet, will be possible under the new law, should it be passed by parliament.

The bill will become law on June 7th should it receive the backing of a parliamentary majority.

Both Facebook and Google decline to comment to Berlingske on the matter, stating they had yet to see the bill in full.