Germany’s Suppression of Free Speech Online

I don’t know how accurate this article on Angela Merkel’s clamping down on digital free speech is – perhaps Bloke in Germany could comment? – but it’s an interesting follow-up to my earlier post:

Absent of an easy route to get at the netizens themselves, what the government really needed was a quick way to force social media firms to make their platforms inhospitable environments for critical, dissident expression; But taking action against social media networks did not turn out to be all that easy.

But coercively targetting social media companies remained an attractive option for the German government. Outsourcing censorship to privately-owned social media firms presents a neat way to circumvene the high bar of constitutional scrutiny that would apply to the state if it tried to enact such censorship directly.

As Germany has economically boomed under Merkel‘s leadership, social compassion and honesty in the public sphere has reached a record low. Corrupt property developers, ruthless drug dealers, and organised crime are being allowed to take over economically deprived parts of Berlin, Frankfurt, Bremen and Colonoge with impunity, while police simply watch. As Berlin‘s political-corporate elite shops in an ever-growing number of luxury all-organic supermarkets, they cheer on the financial rape of Greece and other Southern European countries by the German-led EU‘s austerity programs; Brutal regimes of cuts and privatisations have left some ordinary, hard-working people in those countries unable to afford even basic essentials such as food and medical care. The supposedly anti-racist, pro-equality mainstream media in Germany outdoes itself day-on-day in finding new, politically-useful ways to implicitly suggest to their readers that ‘lazy‘, ‘heat-dazed‘ Greeks deserve all the degrading austerity they get.

Unsurpringly, Vladimir Putin‘s authoritarian United Russia party has already moved to replicate the Network Enforcement Act. In July, it presented an extremely similar draft social media bill in the Russian parliament, the Duma, that even goes as far as explicitly referring to the German law as its inspiration. Proving that imitation is the sincerest flattery, Russian legislators even copied the exact, expedited content deletion timeframe of 24 hours directly from the German government‘s law.

They’re all at it, aren’t they?

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16 thoughts on “Germany’s Suppression of Free Speech Online

  1. Yes, and they’ve been dizzy with success. There are enemies of the people everywhere. What is to be done? Blah, blah, blah. People have no self-awareness.

  2. We, the people, have no friends higher up though they do like us to keep voting for them and their lavish lifestyles. Every day the gap grows ever wider between us and the elite who spit at us.

    The chance of a meteor wiping us, and these problems, out looks rosier by the minute.

  3. “Absent of an easy route to get at the netizens themselves, what the government
    really needed was a quick way to force social media firms to make their platforms
    inhospitable environments for critical, dissident expression”

    Germany is a long way behind the UK on this. Merkel recently described the internet as “uncharted territory” for the government.

    “But coercively targetting social media companies remained an attractive option for
    the German government. Outsourcing censorship to privately-owned social media firms presents a neat way to circumvene the high bar of constitutional scrutiny that
    would apply to the state if it tried to enact such censorship directly.”

    This bit is somewhat correct, with the Facebook “fact checkers”, but that’s a global th ing. That said, there isn’t much doubt that “fake news” happens, but it does however work in both directions. I don’t know what the answer is, but as with tax laws, laws on what lies you can tell without consequence were written for a different era. I am glad it isn’t my job to try and bring them into the 21st century without setting up a censorious dictatorship by accident.

    “As Germany has economically boomed under Merkel‘s leadership, social compassion and honesty in the public sphere has reached a record low.”

    Dunno. Germany prides itself on the fact that even its right-wing parties are somewhat wet-left. Mostly in a positive and productive way, so not Corbyn-style. My impression is that Corbyn is to the left of the post-Communist “Linke” in fact. The refugee thing has sapped an enormous amount of compassion, but rather more on the right than the left. And with Poland’s idiotic government now digging up the long-since buried issue of WW2 reparations (y’know, the same thing that after WW1 kinda made WW2 happen), there is quite an attitude of let everyone else get on with their own thing, whether Poland, Greece, or Syria.

    “Corrupt property developers, ruthless drug dealers, and organised crime are being allowed to take over economically deprived parts of Berlin, Frankfurt, Bremen and Colonoge with impunity, while police simply watch.”

    Bwahahaahaaahahaaaaaaaa!

    There are economically-deprived parts of Frankfurt?Please tell me where, so I can get an illegal immigrant, unregistered cleaner for less than €20 an hour.

    “As Berlin‘s political-corporate elite shops in an ever-growing number of luxury all-organic supermarkets”

    Bwahahaahaaahahaaaaaaaa!

    Has the writer ever been to Berlin?

    “they cheer on the financial rape of Greece and other Southern European countries
    by the German-led EU‘s austerity programs”

    Bwahahaahaaahahaaaaaaaa!

    As many here would agree, “austerity” is little more than living within your means. It’s definitely something you have to do when you’ve been living beyond them for so long.

    Your average septic/Brexiteer sees this as a fault of the euro. Whereas, what the euro has done here is to change the mechanism of default, but not really the consequences of default. You have to bear in mind that Greece always had (and has) the option of going back to a Drachma II. And that Greece is a serial bankrupt. It pulled off the world’s biggest ever sovereign default a few years ago. And is still in the euro – the same euro that would supposedly collapse at the first sovereign default.

    Going back to the Drachma would be rather unpopular with Greek bank customers for obvious reasons. That’s why they started taking their money out the minute it was on the agenda, and why there are cash limits to this day.

    But it’s an option. In a way a more honest option than printing more Drachmas and ripping everyone off slowly.

    It’s also easily forgotten that we only introduced floating exchange rates in 1974. For basically the whole history of the human economy prior to that, gold was everything, and national currencies existed more or less for protectionist reasons. The Euro has killed the protectionism but in doing so taken us back to a place where governments really can go bust, because they can’t print more euros.

    So, if the Greek government is bankrupt, point your fingers in that direction, not in the direction of governments that manage their finance with some degree of competence. Greece is welcome to leave the euro on its own terms, but it really won’t make things any better.

    “Brutal regimes of cuts and privatisations have left some ordinary, hard-working people in those countries unable to afford even basic essentials such as food and
    medical care.”

    This is very sadly true, but would also have happened under the Drachma, and if Greece and Germany had bugger all to do with each other. Because they’d have printed Drachma to pay the creditors, but not increased pensions. Leaving pensioners with fewer Drachma to buy their medical services and food that had
    increased in price because of the greatly increased supply of Drachma.

    “The supposedly anti-racist, pro-equality mainstream media in Germany outdoes itself day-on-day in finding new, politically-useful ways to implicitly suggest to their readers that ‘lazy‘, ‘heat-dazed‘ Greeks deserve all the degrading austerity they get.”

    Greece really doesn’t get a mention these days. It’s on the mend, Germans are goingthere for holidays again as Turkey is randomly throwing Germans in jail, and North Africa is full of terrorists who shoot tourists*. Also, there’s an election this weekend, and refugee stuff, Trump, North Korea, and so on.

    If you can find an article on Greece in, say, the FAZ in the last two weeks I’d love to know about it.

    “Unsurpringly, Vladimir Putin‘s authoritarian United Russia party has already moved to replicate the Network Enforcement Act. In July, it presented an extremely similar draft social media bill in the Russian parliament, the Duma, that even goes as far as explicitly referring to the German law as its inspiration. Proving that imitation is the sincerest flattery, Russian legislators even copied the exact, expedited content deletion timeframe of 24 hours directly from the German government‘s law.”

    I don’t know anything about Russia. If this is the German position it’s actually a relaxation of the current position where an illegal statement can be prosecuted the second it is made.

    *: Personally I take my do-nothing holidays in Israel, because it’s the safest country on the Med right now.

  4. It is a lazier and easier version of burning books which a certain party (which shall remain nameless) indulged in during the late 1930’s …

    Funny how history has a habit of repeating itself, albeit with a different form of technology, eh?

  5. @bardon,

    I never realised that the swastika was used by the Weimar republic before the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei took it over.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wELrtx8NxoU

    (I will concede that the Weimar Republic may also have burned books but the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei did it within a few months of taking power).

  6. @Phil

    Its all good we are on the same page.

    I was referring to the immoral, anything goes, pre-Nazi Berlin (drugs, corruption, prostitution, chickens etc) of the Wiemar portrayed in the quote in the OP, then being cleaned up by the Nazis following Hitler becoming chancellor. Their side of the story being that they cleaned up Berlin and other immoral areas of the country, kicked out the Berlin degenerates and put their local NS party HQ into a premises that used to be the biggest sleaze joint in town and burned the immoral books of their time only, kind of like getting rid of kiddy porn from the web.

  7. BiG: It’s also easily forgotten that we only introduced floating exchange rates in 1974. For basically the whole history of the human economy prior to that, gold was everything, and national currencies existed more or less for protectionist reasons.

    You really ought to resist the almost Murphyesque tendency to hold forth on subjects you know next to nothing about!

  8. @Porzellankuh,

    I see something steaming its way out of the bison again.

    Some form of money standardization has existed pretty much from the dawn of international trade until the Bretton Woods agreement was cancelled by the dollar being taken off the gold standard. The exchange rates were determined by the whim of the likes of Harold “pound in your pocket” Wilson. They could be, and were, changed by diktat because of the strong capital controls (can’t take more than £50 out of the country without permission, international bank transfers have to be handled by the BoE, etc.), and the lack of physical gold in circulation. The US even nationalised all privately-held gold in 1933, in order to keep this kind of manipulation going!

    Going back even further to days of yore, coins were made of physical gold and silver. Then it was Henry VIII who devalued the pound by cutting the silver content of circulating British coins. Later on, the Latin Monetary Union harmonised the size of said coins (Switzerland still uses them, albeit with no silver content) in an attempt to ease international trade, and fell to the same trick (along with changes in the relative value of gold and silver).

    Gold is a stupid thing to tie your currency to, but it’s a fact that the floating rates (which only truly existed within the EU between 1974 and 1979) are the brief experimental period against a historical norm of government fixing and pegging, coupled with attempts at capital controls during a more mercantilist period of history. You’ll note that capital controls were also imposed by Greece and Cyprus during the crises there. Were they not in the Euro they would not have been essential (but would probably have happened)

    Next time you want to have a go at me for being wrong, I’m really happy to be corrected, provided you can come up with anything more illustrative than the tendency to assert my Murphyesque wrongness but omit the statement of what is right, and why. Candidly 😉

  9. I don’t know much about this site or its politics, but I am the author of the original article that was commented on and just wanted to quickly reply to one or two of Bloke in Germany’s points.

    “There are economically-deprived parts of Frankfurt?”

    Ever read the stats on child poverty in Frankfurt Gallus or Frankfurt Bonames? Ever visited those places? Don’t be blind to the world around you.

    Have you noticed the immense systemic racism of state authorities in Frankfurt? If organised criminals come into a predominanetly white district of Frankfurt, and try to deal drugs, engage in people trafficking or street violence, police will arrest them and protect the lives of local residents. But if organised criminals try to take over a predominanetly ethnic minority district like the Bahnhofsviertel, state authorities will do nothing effective to try and protect the residents. Elitist politicians don’t seem to be concerned if kids from ethnic minority backgrounds in economically disadvantaged districts have to walk, everyday, through streets lined with discarded drug paraphenalia, where drug dealers and pimps openly promote their “services”. But I bet you, if the same thing were happening in Berlin Grunewald there would be national outry!
    And of course, rather than cracking down on organised crime and human trafficking, many German police authorities continue their useless and illegal policies of racial profiling and unwarranted stop/search: Making the lives of perfectly law-abiding ethnic minority citizens hell while giving actual criminals a free pass.

    “Has the writer ever been to Berlin?”
    Yes.

    “This bit is somewhat correct, with the Facebook ‘fact checkers’, but that’s a global thing”

    Facebook fact checking is an example of a private social media company using its editorial discretion to decide how to run its own private platform. That’s not illegal, or a violation of rights to free expression, even if I don’t think it is neccessarily a good idea. There is a huge difference between that and the German government using legal coercion and thuggery to intimidate social media companies to delete speech they don’t like.

    “If this is the German position it’s actually a relaxation of the current position where an illegal statement can be prosecuted the second it is made”

    Nope, there is no relaxation of any current laws at all. Comments can be deleted – and – their authors can be prosecuted for them as well. There is no contradiction between deletion and prosecution.

    “This is very sadly true, but would also have happened under the Drachma, and if Greece and Germany had bugger all to do with each other.”

    But that’s not the case. Germany’s huge current balance of foreign trade surplus is dependent on the Euro remaining at a stable, relatively low value because Eurozone countries more widely don’t enjoy the vast balance of foreign trade surplus that Germany does. If Germany had its own currency, the value of it would appreciate as demand for German currency from the buyers of its exports rises. Because of the higher prices German exports would then have, demand would for them would then fall and shift to other countries. An equilibrium situation would be reached. Because of the Euro – which has to be one of the stupidest ever ideas in the history of global monetary policy – poverty and economic stagnation in Greece, Spain and Italy are essentially subsidising the massive wealth increases for the corporate-economic elite in Germany. If Greece (and for that matter, every other Eurozone country) had their own currency and their political freedom back, this would not happen.

    The eurocratic German political class, which unlike ordinary German people, benefits most from this, is always keen to talk about solidarity and cooperation within the EU. But when it came to putting their money where their mouths were, that elite did nothing allowed the people of Greece to go through the untold suffering of the cruel, undemocratic troika regime, dismantling social protections.

    Greece isn’t the only other EU country in those sovereign affairs the German government and its EU allies have interfered in. Look at the systematic, hypocritical campaign of delegitimisation against the governments of Hungary and Poland, as well as the attempts to externally, undemocratically prescribe their migration policies. I am not at all a supporter of either of those two governments, but this kind of intererence endangers security, respect and cooperation in Europe – and also only makes the governments in those countries needlessly stronger vis-a-vis their perfectly legimitate domestic critics.

    Also @Bardon

    You have no understanding of German history. Nazi Germany was far more immoral, corrupt, and criminal than the Weimar Republic, by a million miles. The cornerstone of Hitler’s Nazi ideal was genocidal anti-Semitism, and the destruction of Jewish and Christian morality in favour of a morally relativist ideology of unconstrained utilitarian war, mass murder, plunder, terror and repression.

  10. I don’t know much about this site or its politics, but I am the author of the original article that was commented on

    Oh! Welcome!

    and just wanted to quickly reply to one or two of Bloke in Germany’s points.

    Feel free!

  11. An equilibrium situation would be reached. Because of the Euro – which has to be one of the stupidest ever ideas in the history of global monetary policy – poverty and economic stagnation in Greece, Spain and Italy are essentially subsidising the massive wealth increases for the corporate-economic elite in Germany.

    This is something I’ve argued before.

  12. Why is the “corporate-economic elite”, or “political-corporate elite” better off earning more of a less valuable currency than less of a more valuable currency?

    Why would it be better for Greece to suffer its currency being made worthless by devaluation than having to make do with less of a currency that is still worth something?

    Why don’t you address Greece’s problems at the root – namely the government spending beyond its means? Advocates of any government spending beyond its own means by printing more of its own currency are basically advocating the magic money tree.

    If Greece’s exports are too expensive, they have two options – devalue or charge less. The difference between those is largely academic.

    Greece has received a bailout of, what, €240,000,000,000? And that presumably came at zero cost to Germany or other eurozone countries?

    Honestly – the Bahnhofsviertel? That’s your example of a “takeover” by organised crime? The area that’s been the heart of Frankfurt’s drug and sex trade for, like, centuries? Anyone who goes to live there knows exactly what to expect. And you might be interested to compare rents there: https://www.immowelt.de/immobilienpreise/frankfurt-bahnhofsviertel/mietspiegel
    with those in one of those nice “predominantly white” districts https://www.immowelt.de/immobilienpreise/frankfurt-nordend-ost/mietspiegel.

    How are people practically going to be prosecuted for their censored statements? Unless people are stupid enough to put their names, traceable emails and so on, to their words, the chances of being caught are remote. Sure if you put Nazi propaganda on your facebook page you could (rightly) be in trouble. If you want to see what you can say and get away with, I refer you to Alexander Gauland.

    Germany is not even enforcing its own laws in this area – attempts to make telecoms providers keep IP addresses (probably the easiest way to identify internet users) have failed repeatedly, and the Bundesnetzagentur has announced that is not even enforcing the current law on this. You wanna be anonymous, then don’t say who you are and reset your router regularly.

  13. @Colin – “You have no understanding of German history”

    I beg your pardon Colin, is the rise and fall of the Weimar Republic and the Nazis immediate response to shutting down its culture of debauchery not a matter of historical fact and German history, did they not burn these immoral books?

    The liberal experience that was the Weimar Republic and its opposition to conservative German culture sowed the seeds of its eventual destruction, this is always the response to unchecked liberalism, I don’t deny that in the Germans case at the time that this liberal/conservative split was also characterized on ethnic lines as well. I doubt that any reasonable person would contend that historical fact as well.

    Your OP talks about moral degeneracy creeping into Berlin society, hence my comparison with the Weimar culture. One reason that Hitler became so popular is that he was seen by the silent majority as a “strong leader” who would rid Germany of the political liberal elite and moral corruption of the Weimar Republic. History tends to repeat itself and strongmen will always rise to smash liberalism.

    Interwar period

    Hirschfeld was both quoted and caricatured in the press as a vociferous expert on sexual matters; during his 1931 tour of the United States, the Hearst newspaper chain dubbed him “the Einstein of Sex”. He identified as a campaigner and a scientist, investigating and cataloging many varieties of sexuality, not just homosexuality. He developed a system which categorised 64 possible types of sexual intermediary ranging from masculine heterosexual male to feminine homosexual male, including those he described under the term transvestite (Ger. Transvestit), which he coined in 1910 to describe people who in the 21st century might be referred to as transgender or transsexual.

    When the Nazis took power, they attacked Hirschfeld’s Institute on 6 May 1933, and burned many of its books as well as its archives (see Institut für Sexualwissenschaft).

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