News Changes to the NetzDG: Stricter laws against hatred and...

Changes to the NetzDG: Stricter laws against hatred and agitation

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Passing on the password and the obligation to report conspicuous posts to the BKA: Justice Minister Lambrecht wants to take decisive action against hate crime on the Internet. But the tightening of the law causes criticism.

By Iris Marx, ARD Capital Studio

After the murder of the Kassel government president Walter Lübcke, the grand coalition agreed that it wanted to act more decisively against hatred and agitation on the Internet. Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht not only relied on harsher punishments for insults, but above all on tightening the Network Enforcement Act that came into force in 2017. She announced her plans at the end of last year. A first draft of the speaker became public shortly afterwards, which showed that in future social networks, for example, will have to release so-called inventory data and usage data, for example to law enforcement authorities.

The password from Facebook, for example, not only reveals the identity of a user, but also his private mails in the connected messenger service. The fear that intimate communication could be read in this way is obvious.

This regulates the new network enforcement law

Most users should be concerned that the issuing of passwords has remained part of the package of measures brought into the cabinet today, even after the draft law has been revised. Google even sees the risk of an “online house search” in it. The SPD Minister of Justice has made it clear that a password can only be given by order of a judge and only if serious crime is suspected.

But the password issue still faces a very practical problem. According to applicable data protection law, Facebook and Co. may not save any passwords of the users that they could give out. Only so-called hash values ​​of these passwords are saved, with which a service provider can only check their correctness. This should only calm down half, because a hash value must also be given to the investigative authorities if the legal requirements are met. Lambrecht defends the rule as a clarification of an already existing obligation. The now clear rule on information is of central importance for law enforcement and security.

The centerpiece: the new reporting requirements

But the real core of the draft law is the new reporting requirements. Lambrecht wants the individual user to no longer have to complain about conspicuous posts to the networks, but Facebook & Co. will also have to report this content to the Federal Criminal Police Office. For this purpose, the Federal Criminal Police Office should be increased in terms of factual and personnel. In an interview with the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” in early November 2019, the minister spoke of 400 new jobs.

The networks always have to report posts if there are “concrete indications” that they fulfill, for example, the act of incitement or a threat of murder, ie not with normal everyday insults. BKA boss Holger Münch sees this new reporting requirement as an essential component in the fight against agitation online. “Hate crime has reached a level that threatens democracy,” said Münch at the beginning of February at the European Police Congress. And with these new skills, something can now be countered.

“Comprehensive database at the BKA”

The committed service providers sound less euphoric in view of their new role. In its statement, Google writes that “this will build up a comprehensive database at the Federal Criminal Police Office on users and the content they have posted for law enforcement purposes”, which is unparalleled.

The legal classification of comments on social networks is also a highly complex matter, criticizes the German Lawyers’ Association (DAV). This increases the risk that even completely harmless content is reported. “In addition to the objectionable statements, the Federal Criminal Police Office receives the digital address data for the identification / verification of the user, even if the content turns out to be non-punishable on closer inspection,” said the DAV.

FDP sees civil rights at risk

It is not only various associations that view the project critically, the opposition also raises doubts as to whether Lambrecht’s way is the right way to fight hate crime. Manuel Höferlin, digital policy spokesman for the FDP, writes on the proposed law on Twitter: “The NetzDG itself is increasingly becoming a problem for civil rights and freedom of expression, instead of offering the hoped-for solutions.”

In fact, the new reporting requirement could even go beyond what the fiercely fought data retention once wanted: involuntary disclosure of private communications to investigators. In the case of data retention, the suspicion of a specific serious crime was only about so-called traffic data, which the telephone provider should only save for a longer period of time: who, when and where has called whom. It was not about the content of the discussions.

Investigators have always complained that the investigative tool “data retention” is no longer available after it has been stopped in court. It may not come as a surprise that the opinion of the German Judges Association, for example, on the expanded NetzDG is particularly positive: “The notification obligation for service providers (…) deserves full approval in a special way”.

The law still has to be brought into the Bundestag before it can come into force.

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