The German Federal Parliament just passed a new law that could effectively ban Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and any other social media site with German users. It is called “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz,” or “network enforcement law.” The bill was spearheaded by German Justice Minister Heiko Maas of the Socialist Party. However, Angela Merkel’s CDU also voted for it.
It says that all social media companies are responsible for enforcing German’s speech laws. Any social media company, that has German users, must create a way for people to complain about offensive posts. Posts that violate German’s extensive bans on freedom of speech, must be deleted within twenty-four hours. This includes criticism of Islam and refugees.
Critics point out that it effectively bans all criticism of Angela Merkel’s extremely unpopular immigration policy. The law is opposed by human rights groups, the computer industry, and the majority of all Germans. In fact, German media outlets are finding it extremely hard to even find organizations willing to go on record supporting the law.
Social media sites that fail to rapidly delete offending posts will face fines of up to fifty million euros. This is equal to fifty-seven million US dollars. The minimum fine is five million euros. Websites are also required to publish bi-annual reports detailing how many offending posts they have deleted and how fast the posts were deleted.
The new rules go into effect this October. If the German government pursues these fines, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube will either have to spend tens of millions on armies of censors or simply block all German visitors. Not to mention all the smaller uncensored social media websites who have very few employees. They lack the resources to police German users.
Also, it is extremely easy to disguise your IP address so you appear to be from a different country. German thought criminals will simply begin using proxy servers in foreign countries.
A big question is how will the German government fine foreign social media companies with no nexus in Germany? Already, German users are flocking to the Russian-based Facebook clone VK. This is now the 8th most popular website in Germany because of its reputation for not censoring content. VK is currently the third most popular social media website in Germany after Youtube and Facebook.