For The Second Time In A Week, German Hate Speech Laws Results In Deletion Of Innocent Speech

from the hate-speech-law-takes-on-law-of-unintended-consequences;-loses-immediately dept

It's going to be a fun few months for German government officials as they run from one embarrassing fire to the next, hoping to keep their newly-minted "hate speech" law from being scrapped for sheer ineptitude.

The law went live January 1st, promising hefty fines for social media companies if they don't remove poorly-defined "hate speech" fast enough. This has resulted in exactly the sort of side effects the law's critics promised. The only remarkable thing is how fast the side effects have presented themselves.

Within 72 hours of the law's debut, a satirical post mocking a German's politician's bigoted words was deleted by Twitter in an apparently proactive move. The 24-hour window for content removal is backed by €50m fines for each violation. Given the amount of money on the line, it's no surprise social media companies are trying to stay ahead of Germany's government when it comes to regulating speech. It's also no surprise Twitter, et al are relying heavily on users to help narrow down which questionable posts it should be looking at.

You can already see where this is headed. For the second time in less than a week, Twitter has pulled the trigger on an innocent tweet. And, again, the entity whose tweet has been deleted is big enough to attract the attention of German lawmakers.

Germany signalled on Monday it was open to amending a controversial law combatting online hate speech as the justice minister fell victim to the rules he himself championed.

The move came after Twitter deleted a post by Heiko Maas dating back to 2010 before he was appointed justice minister, in which he called a fellow politician "an idiot".

The post was deleted after Twitter received several complaints, fuelling a simmering row over the new regulation which critics say stifle freedom of speech.

Proponents of laws targeting speech tend to believe the law will operate in a pristine vacuum where only the purest of intentions will be honored. Anyone operating outside of this mindset knows exactly how speech-targeting laws work in real life: exactly like this, where an internet dogpile resulted in the deletion of a tweet that didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech handed down by the German government.

As a result of multiple, high-profile false positives, many German politicians are now complaining about the law and demanding it be altered or struck down. But even with political sentiment swiftly turning against the just-enacted law, the German government will apparently take a wait-and-see approach to touching up the law.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said an evaluation would be carried out within six months to examine how well the new law was working.

The way things are going, it's doubtful the law will make it six weeks before being clawed back for a rewrite.


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  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 8:35am

    Best learning tool ever

    In some ways I'm happy that this law passed. It will be used as a case study for all future administrations and freedom-of-speech advocates on what NOT to do. Too many times these laws never make it this far (for good reason) and all pundits have are hypothetical harms, which are easy to ignore. Harder to ignore something like this... silver linings and all...

    Too much to hope that this will help stop SESTA here in the States?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 9:46am

      Re: Best learning tool ever

      "It will be used as a case study for all future administrations and freedom-of-speech advocates on what NOT to do."

      It will be roundly ignored. If not ignored, dismissed as an anomaly, or because "now we know better, we'll get it right this time!" Because we're smarter than our ignorant ancestors, yo. There's all kinds of historic evidence that this is what happens, thus Techdirt being able to predict.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 10:02am

      Re: Best learning tool ever

      Sort of like how Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi served as a case study that averted Trump's election.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 9:39am

    What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

    First, this is Techdirt's characteristic "sky is falling" panic from one raindrop. Techdirt jeers others who spot trends from one data point, but can't see how silly this re-write is if gave ANY numbers.

    Next, at least show NEW loss. This appears to be targeted searching back -- SEVEN YEARS -- for purpose of "proving" the point -- which Techdirt happily re-writes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 9:58am

      Re: What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

      Way to go, ignore the main point of the article, somebody complains the content gets taken down lest the company suffers a massive fine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 10:07am

      Re: What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

      So, you're fine with censoring tweets that use the word 'idiot' because it's 'hate speech'?

      If calling a politician an idiot is hate speech and enough to get your posts deleted, then we might as well declare saying anything bad about anyone is now hate speech.

      Because really, if "Politician is an idiot" is hate speech, how is "Politician sucks at their job" not hate speech to?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 11:52am

        Re: Re: What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

        This is funny because this is likely the same AC that calls everyone on here a bunch of idiots, retards, morons, etc...

        Ironic he doesn't scream about that kind of hate speech.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 6:17pm

          That's not irony

          If it is the same person 'ironic' would not be the correct word, 'hypocritical' would be. 'I'm allowed to insult you all, but insults by other people should be a bannable offense!'

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 10:27am

      Re: What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

      You know it's pathological, don't you? Go see a psychiatrist, you'll live a happier life.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 11:27am

      Re: What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

      "One" raindrop lol.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 5:39pm

      Re: What's the loss in this 7 year old "tweet"? -- And out of HOW MANY MILLION REMARKS MADE THIS YEAR?

      I thought you quit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 9:43am

    It was Twitter which "didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech".

    Clearly Twitter has an interest in making this apper abad.

    Using your own "one instance condemns" standard and noting that it's Twitter TWICE NOW, then clearly Twitter is engaged in a pattern of falsehoods trying to reverse the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sharur (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 9:58am

      Re: It was Twitter which "didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech".

      But the law puts the onus on Twitter, et al, to remove content, within 24hrs of posting, not governmental complaint. It also, incorrectly, in my opinion, targets not only companies, are able to afford to fight this in court, but also individual employees, which cannot. It is, in my opinion, a bad law, simply on the merits of its fine structure and lack of due process; and in the words of Abraham Lincon: "The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." Strict enforcement of this law is showing its true colors.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 10:30am

        Re: Re: It was Twitter which "didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech".

        "The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."

        Newsflash: German authorities deliver 1 trillion euro fine because Youtube could not get rid of its obnoxious users fast enough. TREEELLION.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 12:23pm

      Re: It was Twitter which "didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech".

      Of course they do. BECAUSE IT IS BAD!!!

      But just because a bad law gets passed and bad things happen as a result to prove everyone who was against it right, doesn't mean those people deliberately engineered those events.

      Correlation does not equal causation, or something like that. Also Occam's Razor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 5:46pm

      Re: It was Twitter which "didn't even meet the expansive definitions of hate speech".

      If your underlying point is that there is nothing wrong with hiding or deleting speech even when it's perfectly legal or harmless, on that we might be able to agree.

      I agree there's nothing wrong with hiding the spam you vomit so readily.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 10:20am

    Six month review? That's nonsense. He's not hoping for more data during the next six months. He's hoping that there won't be any more high-profile cases, that these were anomalies, and is burying his head in the sand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dave blevins (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 11:27am

    Need this for Trumpie

    Too bad we can't tape the crude, rude, and down-right MEAN mouth of our Prez. He's now expanded his meanness from Puerto Rico hurricane, to the Dreamers, onto the 17 year Salvadorian refugees, and now to "half" of the world. Guess his PR for his "base" was running low.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 1:02pm

    proper tucked?

    z germans...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 2:41pm

    I don't know if Trump would love this law because people couldn't call him an idiot, or hate this law because he couldn't call other people an idiot....

    I mean, we are talking about a man who wants to open up libel laws while whining and moaning about everyone under the sun...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sok Puppette, 12 Jan 2018 @ 4:25pm

    The story here is that Twitter doesn't have the guts to just pull out and geoblock Germany, and continues to kiss their dictatorial asses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 5:04pm

    Forsooth! Re-tweeteth not fine musings of Churchill,

    lest the chancellor find it be hate-speech (on two non-consecutive occasions).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2018 @ 5:19pm

    But was the politicians account deleted?

    That would be the best solution.

    Twitter should simply start deleting German accounts. Find a bad word. A snarky phrase. A rude analogy comparing someone's face with their interchangeable ass. Go back to their very beginning. In fact, go through their published anything, facebook, texts, websites, website comments.

    Delete! For the win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 6:26pm

    That would do it

    The move came after Twitter deleted a post by Heiko Maas dating back to 2010 before he was appointed justice minister, in which he called a fellow politician "an idiot".

    It was all fun and games until they realized that oh yeah, it can be used against them, and now suddenly they care.

    Ideally they'd scrap the entire thing, but I can't help but suspect the 'six month review' is, like Jeffrey Nonken notes, a hope that no more high profile(read: famous person and/or politician) cases will draw attention to how bad it is so that it can stay on the books.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2018 @ 1:48pm

    "Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said an evaluation would be carried out within six months to examine how well the new law was working."

    It's working just as planned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Jan 2018 @ 5:40pm

      Re:

      Yes and no I imagine. Companies being forced to remove stuff on the flimsiest accusation to avoid ruinous fines? Yeah, pretty sure that was intended.

      High-profile cases coming so soon after the law is put into place, bringing attention to it and opposition given who is being targeted? That I imagine they would rather not have happened.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 13 Jan 2018 @ 9:36pm

    If it wasn't for Islam, there would be no such law...

    While this is 100% aimed at silencing critics of Islam, I won't laboriously point out the hypocrisy.

    the larger application is to begin the process of silencing speech altogether, to consolidate the power of the EU technocrats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Charles Labianco, 31 Mar 2018 @ 11:40am

    Censorship - How To Do It

    State clearly that sexually, vulgar name calling comments will not be published. That way, you will not be wasting time and space(money) on such comments.
    Other name calling comments can be published IF THEY ARE EXPLAINED. Example: "Trump is a criminal because he supports the crimes against the Palestinians executed by the Israeli government. His support was indicated in his recognition of the desire of Israel to move its capital to Jerusalem. " [ regardless of whether or not such a comment is factual or logical. ] In the explanation, the commentator will be offering and exposing hiser ( his or her ) supposed logic, which is open toward other people's logic. Such commentary will then convince or be convinced in the forum of "debate".

    You will still be "censoring" but your censorship will be allowing "freedom of expression of rational ideas" , of "political commentary" , of "ideas of language and logic". Yes, you will be censoring only sexually vulgar expressions.

    Essentially, describing a person "as acting in a criminal manner indicated by "such and such" is not "name calling". Name calling is the act of putting a label on something without rationalizing it.
    Calling someone a "war hawk" is name calling. Saying that someone is a "war hawk BECAUSE they have advocated bombing or using military force to stop ISIS or Assad " is a rationalization; an explanation for the label, the name, the adjective: "war hawkish". Such a label AND its rationalization can be argued against. It also exposes the commentator 's logic or lack of logic to criticisms of other people in the world. The commentator can be praised , or embarrassed by his lack of logic. People can learn from such commentary.

    Can I get a subscription to articles that are published by Freedom of the Press Foundation?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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