The government of Angela Merkel has approved draft legislation that seeks to combat certain content on the social media.

The proposed law will force social media companies to remove content that German government may find offensive or ‘false’. In its broadly defined parameters the law wants social media companies to act against hate speech, and other contents that may be “in breach of German laws”, Bonn-based public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported. Companies could face up to €50 million, or $53 million, in fines if they fail to remove ‘criminal content’.

All the major social media providers are based in the U.S. and by enacting this law Merkel government clearly wants to circumvent the free speech rights granted under the U.S. Constitution.

“We do not accept the fact that companies in Germany do not adhere to the law. Therefore in future, if it doesn’t get better, we will impose high fines on these companies,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told a local TV channel. The law will also force social media companies to reveal the identity of the users suspected of posting ‘hateful’ content.

But the 50 million euro question is, who gets to decide what is ‘criminal’ on social media, and what is ‘false’ in news reporting. Despite blanket media support for Merkel’s policies, individual posts and blogs still have the potential of challenging the official narrative in Germany. It was the popular outrage on the social media that forced the German media to cover last year’s mass-sexual assaults at Cologne central station. Prior to popular pushback, German media was actively involved in supressing the actual crimes and origin of the perpetrators.

The law brought forward by Germany’s Ministry of Justice would require social media companies to publish quarterly reports detailing their efforts in combatting undesirable speech as well as the profiles of the ’employees responsible for deleting and blocking content that breaches Germany’s hate speech and slander laws’. German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported today:

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday approved draft legislation that would foresee major fines for social media companies like Facebook and Twitter if they fail to delete hate speech, libel or other content in breach of German laws. Given the grand coalition government’s monster majority in the lower house of parliament, approval there should be a formality.

Ahead of Wednesday’s decisive cabinet meeting to tackle internet hate speech, Justice Minister Heiko Maas reiterated his warning that online companies failing to delete criminal content themselves could face financial punishments of up to 50 million euros ($53 million).

Social networks would have 24 hours to delete or block obviously criminal content and seven days to deal with more ambiguous cases. They would be obliged to report back to the person who filed the complaint about how they handled the case.

Failure to comply could lead to fines up to 50 million euros for the company and 5 million euros for the company’s chief representative in Germany. [DW, April 6, 2016]

The move by Merkel’s lame duck cabinet — just 5 months ahead of the country’s general election — is not concerned about the real hate being spread by Muslim radicals in German mosques and online, or the accuracy in media reporting in the country, but the new legislation will be wielded as a campaign tool ahead of the polls to intimidate and silence the troublesome critics of Merkel’s migrant debacle.

German media has been fully on board with Merkel ‘Migrants Policy’. Media has been more than willing to paddle government’s happy talk on mass-migration and cover up its disasters. However, the effective use social media by Trump campaign has alarmed Germany’s liberal establishment. Determined to prevent the repeat of similar scenario in Germany, Merkel and her left-wing Social Democratic Justice Minister Maas have sharpened the rhetoric against ‘hateful’ posts and ‘fake news’ on social media.

In an election year, social media can allow right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to circumvent the media filter and directly reach millions of voters. By enacting this new legislation, Merkel government hopes to blunt this instrument and muffle the critics.

If the approved draft becomes law, it could be criminal in the country to shout ‘the emperor has no clothes’. And if you so much as even hosted such ‘offensive’ comments: you could be dragged to court by the all-powerful state and face crippling sanctions.

Video: Merkel says ‘fake news’ driving Right-wing populists in Germany [subtitled, November 2016]


[Cover image courtesy BR, YouTube]