Germany's Network Enforcement Act: Legal framework for censorship of the Internet

Selin, Katerina

Publisher:  World Socialist Web Site
Date Written:  05/10/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21454

On October 1, 2017, the Network Enforcement Act took effect in Germany. Under the cover of a fight against "fake news" and "hate speech," it creates a legal framework for censorship of the Internet.



The law requires operators of Internet platforms with over two million users to "remove or block obviously unlawful content within 24 hours of receipt of a complaint." In what are called less obvious cases, a seven-day period applies. A platform must regularly report on its handling of complaints. If it does not comply, it faces fines of up to 50 million euros. The assumption behind the law is the expectation that companies will opt to delete a controversial post rather than risk severe financial penalties. There are no sanctions against platforms that erase legitimate posts. In this way, the basic rights of users are undermined.


According to Reporters Without Borders, the new German law has already served as a model for Russia. In mid-July, deputies of the pro-Putin party "United Russia" introduced a very similar bill to control social networks and explicitly cited the German law. When the Russian counterpart is adopted, it will also come into effect on January 1, 2018.

The European Union is also working to reduce freedom of expression on the Internet. A week ago, the EU Commission published guidelines for online platforms to "proactively" identify and remove illegal content. The press release states that the EU Commission will "closely monitor and evaluate the progress of online platforms in the coming months," in order to decide whether "legislative measures to complement the existing legal framework" may be necessary.
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