BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government Wednesday approved a law that forces social media platforms to proactively report illegal content such as death threats or incitement of hatred to law enforcement authorities.
“With the legislative package launched today, we’re targeting hate crimes with more force than before,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, a Social Democrat, said in a written statement. “In the future, anyone who incites hate and threatens others online will be prosecuted more thoroughly and effectively.”
The law approved Wednesday is one of two pending proposals to further toughen Germany’s online hate speech rules, which are considered some of the most stringent in the world. Before taking effect, the law still needs to pass both chambers of Germany’s parliament.
While advocates say that tough rules are necessary to hold Big Tech accountable for what’s happening on their platforms, critics warn that Berlin’s crackdown on online speech could open the door to far-reaching censorship, and that Germany might accidentally create a prototype that could be copied by authoritarian governments.
Lambrecht defended Berlin’s hate speech rulebook Wednesday, arguing that such rules are necessary to stop an ongoing “spiral of hatred and violence” online.
“Hate crimes should finally end up where they belong: in court,” she added.