The project “NetzDG and Human Rights” addresses the regulatory framework and the detrimental effects on human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks (Network Enforcement Act, NetzDG), which entered into force on October 1, 2017, and its recent amendment by the Act to Combat Right-Wing Extremism and Hate Crime.
In addition to independent efforts undertaken by providers of social networks to combat online hate crime and so-called fake news by means of self-imposed communication rules, statutory regulations have been introduced in order – according to the explanatory memorandum to the law – to more effectively combat hate and incitement as well as right-wing extremism on the net. IT service providers with more than two million registered users in Germany (those on the scale, for example, of Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram) are required as private actors to set up a transparent complaints management system for the efficient handling of complaints about illegal content as defined in Section 1 (3) NetzDG. The complaints procedure must ensure that IT service providers take note of incoming complaints without delay and determine whether the reported content is illegal, whether it must be deleted – within a very short period of time – or whether access to it must be blocked. Systematic violations of these obligations are punishable by significant fines. As a result of the amendment to the NetzDG by the Act to Combat Right-Wing Extremism and Hate Crime, which entered into force on April 3, 2021, providers of social networks must, in addition, proactively report certain potentially criminal content to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). These obligations are supplemented by amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure that, among other things, enable law enforcement authorities to collect usage data from telemedia service providers if certain facts give rise to the suspicion that someone has committed a crime of significant importance as a primary or secondary perpetrator (principal or accessory).
The NetzDG has been controversial since its entry into force. In particular, the catalog of Section 1 (3) has lent new explosive force to a large number of criminal offenses that involve freedom of expression, arts and sciences, personal freedoms and human dignity, and freedom of faith and conscience. In effect, private providers of social networks have – against their will – been given the responsibility of balancing human rights and fundamental freedoms against each other and have been made gatekeepers at the threshold of fundamental and human rights.
The project “NetzDG and Human Rights” aims to show alternative ways of combating right-wing extremism and hate crime on the Internet that conform with principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Expected outcome: Several publications
Languages: German, Italian, English