An organisation run by a former Stasi agent has been recruited by the German government to patrol Facebook in a bid to stamp out “xenophobic” comments. Those caught posting material that the government disagrees with are likely to face criminal prosecution.
Germany is set to welcome one million new immigrants this year, a move that has not been without controversy. Determined to see his fellow Germans embrace their new multicultural homeland, Justice Minister Heiko Maas has decided to crack down on those citizens who criticise the influx, especially those who take to their own private Facebook accounts to do so.
Maas has recruited the help of an organisation – Network Against Nazis (Netz Gegen Nazis, or NAN) – to aid him in his crackdown. NAN was founded by, and according to it’s website works in partnership with, the Amaedu Antonio Foundation, run by Anetta Kahane, who between 1974 and 1982 worked for the Stasi under the code name ‘Victoria’.
Last week Maas wrote to Richard Allen, Facebook’s public policy director, who is based in Dublin, to complain that not enough was being done to root out “xenophobic” comments on the social media site, Deutsche Welle reported.
The implementation of community standards “can apparently not be relied on,” Maas said, “even though many posts contain comments that constitute the criminal offense of incitement to hatred.” He reminded Facebook of its legal obligation to delete posts which fall foul of the law.
Haas insisted that he did not oppose free speech, but went on to add: “The Internet, however, is not a legal vacuum in which racist incitement and criminal utterances can be spread in an uncontrolled manner. In the case of internet users who propagate xenophobia and offensive racism, we must not mistakenly apply tolerance.”
Haas has been backed by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last week told reporters: “When people practice sedition under their own name on social networking sites, not only must the state act, but Facebook should also take action against the comments.”
On Monday Facebook sent a delegation to meet with Haas. According to Bild, the meeting was a success, with Haas and Facebook declaring that they intend to create a joint task-force to combat “hate messages” on the internet.
“The aim is to improve complaint management and to better identify criminal comments,” Haas said.
Facebook declared that it had already been planning such a taskforce before the meeting, revealing that it plans to involve non-profit organisations in the project. Specifically, it named the left wing organisation NAN as a collaborator.
NAN has already made clear that it supports police patrol of the internet. In one blog post it lists a number of prosecutions for comments made on social media for which people have been fined and prosecuted, including one case in which a man was fined €3,900 for merely ‘liking’ a racist post.
The blog author commented: “The Internet is full of comments and postings with misanthropic content, and since there is, as yet, no “police-patrol” of the Internet, it is even more important that the network community watches closely and passes criminally relevant contributions to the police. While earlier verbal abuse often could not be detected, a post on Facebook can be used as evidence.”
Kahne has also made it clear that she believes in a borderless world, telling RT “Immigration is the future.
“You have to adapt the educational system, and adapt the self-understanding of the states [so that citizens understand] they are not anymore only white or only Swedish or only Portuguese or only German. They are multicultural places in [a globalised] world.”