NetzDG law enacted to combat hate speech but raises fears of censorship


A new German law came into force on 1st October 2017 which imposes fines on social networks that do not delete illegal content, including content deemed to be hate speech. Known as the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), the new law has generated considerable debate over free speech rights on the internet. In one opinion article on, Daniel Leisegang, editor of the online news site - - stated that: 

“The NetzDG will not solve the problem of hate speech and fake news, but rather displace it into other parts of the internet. Right-wing extremist movements are by no means silenced after being banished from Facebook, but are adapting their propaganda strategy to external circumstances”. (Translated from German) 

The text of the law was published in English within the project "Disinformation and Democracy" by Eurozine. Critics of the law are worried that legitimate statements could be deleted by media trying to avoid being fined. 

In April 2017, an Alliance for Freedom of Expression was launched to address criticisms of the law. Comprised of a coalition of journalists' associations, civil rights organisations and networking initiatives, the Alliance sought to advocate for certain changes to the law before the final vote. Some of their recommendations were accepted, but issues still remain a concern for civil society and media, such as which online platforms and networks come under the law's provisions.

Peaceful Assembly

There have reportedly been multiple recent cases in which police officers were not wearing any identification during demonstrations in Germany. The European Court of Human Rights reviewed the case, recommending that police officers be marked with individual numbers. Such a rule must be legislated at the German state level. At the time of writing, it was unclear if any states had adopted such measures.