Populist Leader First Casualty of New German Law Censoring Free Speech

A prominent figure in the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has run afoul of Germany’s draconian new censorship law, as officials crack down on whatever they deem to be “hate speech.”

Twitter froze the account of Beatrix von Storch, saying she had violated “hate speech” rules, after the politician tweeted her indignation at a New Year’s greeting issued in Arabic by the Cologne Police.

“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?” wrote von Storch, the deputy leader of the AfD party.

As Breitbart News reported at the time, Cologne was the epicenter of mass sexual assaults, gang rapes and looting by mostly Muslim migrants during the 2015-2016 New Year’s Eve celebrations, although smaller, similar incidents also occurred in Hamburg, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart and Bielefeld. Police acknowledged in a leaked document that some 1,200 women were sexually assaulted throughout Germany in the course of the New Year celebrations,.

On New Year’s Day, Ms. von Storch’s account was shut down for 12 hours after Cologne police filed a criminal complaint against her for hate speech.

Once her account was unfrozen, the parliamentarian announced that her Facebook account had also been censored.

“This is the end of the rule of law,” she wrote, posting the message she received from Facebook administrators.

In her censored Facebook message, Ms. von Storch said that Germany is “a free country where we can call barbarians by their name. Even if they are Muslims. (I refer to those against whom we are now setting up tents for German women, because the state can no longer guarantee them security outside the tents).”

The parliamentarian was referring to a new measure taken to protect German women from assault during the New Year’s celebrations. This year a special “safe zone” for women was created at the annual New Year’s Eve party in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate at the request of the Berlin police.

The German government passed its Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law at the end of June 2017 but gave social networks until the end of 2017 to prepare themselves for its enforcement. NetzDG targets social networks and media sites with more than two million members, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The law requires social media sites to monitor and immediately remove any hate speech, fake news and illegal material, or face fines. NetzDG gives the networks 24 hours to act after complaints of offensive material have been filed.

Obviously, the new censorship system works outside the rule of law, with no formal investigation into the charges and no opportunity for the accused to defend themselves. In the case of Ms. Von Storch, it was sufficient for the Cologne police to complain to Twitter and Facebook in order for the social media giants to shut down her accounts.

The AfD party and many others have criticized NetzDG for its open censorship of free speech. What one person deems offensive is not offensive to others, they maintain, and the law itself is not endowed with the power to protect people from everything that offends their sensibilities.

In the first day of enforcement of NetzDG, Twitter abounded with reports of conservatives being silenced under the law. As of now, there seem to have been no cases of liberals being similarly targeted.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter


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