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Facts & Findings

Social Networks under an obligation! Freedom of expression under threat?

by Boris P. Paal, Moritz Hennemann

The Network Enforcement Act in Practice: Stocktaking and Recommendations for Action

The aim of the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, NetzDG) is to combat hatred on the Internet, and social networks are to be made responsible in a regulated manner. The law is controversial, so many critics fear, for example, that the operators of the networks would delete too much as a precaution due to the short 24-hour period and thus restrict the freedom of expression of the users. The present brief report is on the one hand an inventory of the practice of the NetzDG and also offers recommendations for action for the upcoming amendment of the law.
  • Starting point: The fight against hate speech on the internet and the obligations to be met by social network providers are central objectives of the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, NetzDG) that was enacted in 2017.
  • Reactions: The objectives of the NetzDG are generally welcomed. However, the detailed anatomy of the legislation has been criticised in many quarters. One major reproach is that the NetzDG violates the fundamental right of expression by what is called ‘chilling effects and over-blocking’.
  • NetzDG reports: The first mandatory reports from social network providers prove the practical importance of the NetzDG. However, deletion rates hardly support the fear of general over-blocking, if at all.
  • Prospects: The regulatory approach should be readjusted and advanced with a sense of proportion – a close coordination with the EU regulatory proposals is required. Specifically, the guidelines for complaint management have to be supplemented. The sanctions regime should address the issue of deleted legitimate content. Users are to be protected more effectively, in particular through a right to have unjustly deleted content ‘reinstated’.
Event Reports
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung
February 22, 2019
Ein Baustein gegen Hass im Netz
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