04/07/2017

Europe's Out-Of-Control Censorship

Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute

  • If Facebook insists on the rules of censorship, it should at the very least administer those rules in a fair way. Facebook, however, does not even pretend that it administers its censorship in any way that approximates fairness.

  • Posts critical of Chancellor Merkel's migrant policies, for example, can be categorized as "Islamophobia", and are often found to violate "Community Standards", while incitement to actual violence and the murder of Jews and Israelis by Palestinian Arabs is generally considered as conforming to Facebook's "Community Standards".

  • Notwithstanding the lawsuits, Facebook's bias is so strong that it recently restored Palestinian Arab terrorist group Fatah's Facebook page, which incites hatred and violence against Jews -- despite having shut it down only three days earlier. In 2016 alone, this page had a minimum of 130 posts glorifying terror and murder of Jews.

Germany has formally announced its draconian push towards censorship of social media. On March 14, Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced the plan to formalize into law the "code of conduct", which Germany pressed upon Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in late 2015, and which included a pledge to delete "hate speech" from their websites within 24 hours.

"This [draft law] sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation.

"Criminal" content? Statements that are deemed illegal under German law are now being conflated with statements that are merely deemed, subjectively and on the basis of entirely random complaints from social media users -- who are free to abuse the code of conduct to their heart's content -- to be "hate speech". "Hate speech" has included critiques of Chancellor Angela Merkel's migration policies. To be in disagreement with the government's policies is now potentially "criminal". Social media companies, such as Facebook, are supposed to be the German government's informers and enforcers -- qualified by whom and in what way? -- working at the speed of light to comply with the 24-hour rule. Rule of law, clearly, as in North Korea, Iran, Russia or any banana-republic, has no place in this system.

Maas is not pleased with the efforts of the social media companies. They do not, supposedly, delete enough reported content, nor do they delete it fast enough, according to a survey by the Justice Ministry's youth protection agency. It found that YouTube was able to remove around 90% of "illegal" postings within a week, while Facebook deleted or blocked 39% of content and Twitter only 1%. The German minister, it seems, wants more efficiency.

"We need to increase the pressure on social networks... There is just as little room for criminal propaganda and slander [on social media] as on the streets," said Maas. "For this we need legal regulations." He has now presented these legal regulations in the form of a draft bill, which provides for complaints, reporting and fines.

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