In a first-of-its-kind report assessing the global state of artistic freedom, Freemuse warns of the emergence of a new global culture of silencing others, where artistic expression is being shut down in every corner of the globe, including in the
traditionally democratic West.
In 2017, 48 artists were serving combined sentences of more than 188 years in prison. Spain imprisoned 13 rappers -- more musicians than any other country. On average, one artist per week in 2017 was prosecuted for expressing themselves. Egypt,
Russia and Israel accounted for one-third of violations against LGBT artists and audiences. Seventy per cent of violations against women artists and audiences were on the grounds of indecency, a rationale used in 15 countries across Europe, North
America, Asia and Africa. And artists from minority groups suffered violations of their artistic freedom in a near 50/50 split between countries in the global North and South.
The nationalist politics in the US and Europe has created a new legitimacy to dismiss perspectives and artistic expression of 'others'. Together with traditional repressive regimes, the new global culture of silencing others has taken freedom of
artistic expression to a new low, Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said. Our research and analysis show that those in power anywhere share a will to silence those with whom they disagree, dislike, fear or simply see as different.
The consequences of these violations against art and artists are incalculable. Artists challenge authorities by their creativity and by their power to convey sharp observations and ideas that many people share. When authorities silence artists, it
affects a wide group of readers, listeners and audiences, Anna Livion Ingvarsson, Secretary General of Swedish PEN, said.
The State of Artistic Freedom 2018 report documents and examines 553 cases of artistic freedom violations in 78 countries, exploring the rationales and mechanisms in place that allow for these violations to take place.
Through this comprehensive analysis we have identified 18 countries, including China, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the US, that have exhibited alarming developments in how they treat artists and their freedom of
artistic expression, and are ones to keep a watch on throughout 2018.
Dutch voters have rejected a law that would give spy agencies the power to carry out mass tapping of Internet traffic.
Dubbed the 'trawling law' by opponents, the legislation would allow spy agencies to install wire taps targeting an entire geographic region or avenue of communication, store information for up to three years, and share it with allied spy agencies.
The snooping law has already been approved by both houses of parliament. Though the referendum was non-binding prime minister Mark Rutte has vowed to take the result seriously.
Whilst the EU ramps up internet censorship, particularly people's criticism of its policies, the Council of Europe calls for internet censorship to be transparent and limited to the minimum necessary by law
The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental body entirely separate from the European Union. With a wider membership of 47 states, it seeks
to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including by monitoring adherence to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
Its Recommendations are not legally binding on Member States, but are very influential in the development of national policy and of the policy and law of the European Union.
The Council of Europe has published a Recommendation
to Member States on the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries. The Recommendation declares that access to the Internet is a precondition for the ability effectively to exercise fundamental human rights, and seeks to protect users
by calling for greater transparency, fairness and due process when interfering with content.
The Recommendations' key provisions aimed at governments include:
Public authorities should only make "requests, demands or other actions addressed to internet intermediari es that interferes with human rights and fundamental freedoms" when prescribed by law. This means they should therefore avoid
asking intermediaries to remove content under their terms of service or to make their terms of service more restrictive.
Legislation giving powers to public authorities to interfere with Internet content should clearly define the scope of those powers and available discretion, to protect against arbitrary application.
When internet intermediaries restrict access to third-party content based on a State order, State authorities should ensure that effective redress mechanisms are made available and adhere to applicable procedural safeguards.
When intermediaries remove content based on their own terms and conditions of service, this should not be considered a form of control that makes them liable for the third-party content for which they provide access.
Member States should consider introducing laws to prevent vexatious lawsuits designed to suppress users free expression, whether by targeting the user or the intermediary. In the US, these are known as " anti-SLAPP laws ".
A book about Spain's drug-smuggling underworld was banned last week by a Madrid courta. José Alfredo Bea Gondar, a former mayor of the coastal town of O Grove in Galicia, to freeze distribution of Fariña (Blow) by Nacho Carretero Pou
because of references to his alleged involvement in the unloading of a shipment of cocaine and a supposed negotiation between Colombia's Cali cartel and local smugglers. The book is banned pending the hearing of libel case.
Kicking against what they consider outdated censorship, a booksellers' association has reacted to the seizure of the non-fiction book 'Fariña' by launching a website to replicate it word for word. The website includes a digital tool that searches
for and locates the 80,000 words that make up the banned book from within the text of Don Quixote , extracting them one by one to recompose the banned book. On Friday after two days online, the website had racked up over 30,000 hits,
according to the Booksellers Guild of Madrid. Fernando Valverde, the Guild secretary explained;
It's a metaphor for the fact that in the digital era you can seize a book, but you cannot gag words.
It is not clear whether the ruse is a legal way for people to read it.
The EU is considering a copyright proposal that would require code-sharing platforms to monitor all content that users upload for
potential copyright infringement (see the EU Commission's proposed Article 13 of the Copyright Directive ). The proposal is aimed at music and videos on streaming platforms, based on a theory of a "value gap" between the profits those
platforms make from uploaded works and what copyright holders of some uploaded works receive. However, the way it's written captures many other types of content, including code.
We'd like to make sure developers in the EU who understand that automated filtering of code would make software less reliable and more expensive--and can explain this to EU policymakers--participate in the conversation.
Why you should care about upload filters
Upload filters (" censorship machines ") are one of the most controversial elements of the copyright proposal, raising a number of concerns, including:
Privacy : Upload filters are a form of surveillance, effectively a "general monitoring obligation" prohibited by EU law
Free speech : Requiring platforms to monitor content contradicts intermediary liability protections in EU law and creates incentives to remove content
Ineffectiveness : Content detection tools are flawed (generate false positives, don't fit all kinds of content) and overly burdensome, especially for small and medium-sized businesses that might not be able to afford
them or the resulting litigation
Upload filters are especially concerning for software developers given that:
Software developers create copyrightable works--their code--and those who choose an open source license want to allow that code to be shared
False positives (and negatives) are especially likely for software code because code often has many contributors and layers, often with different licensing for different components
Requiring code-hosting platforms to scan and automatically remove content could drastically impact software developers when their dependencies are removed due to false positives
A German law requiring social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove reported hate speech without
enough time to consider the merits of the report is set to be revised following criticism that too much online content is being blocked.
The law, called NetzDG for short, is an international test case and how it plays out is being closely watched by other countries considering similar measures.
German politicians forming a new government told Reuters they want to add an amendment to help web users get incorrectly deleted material restored online.
The lawmakers are also pushing for social media firms to set up an independent body to review and respond to reports of offensive content from the public, rather than leaving to the social media companies who by definition care more about profits
than supporting free speech.
Such a system, similar to how video games are policed in Germany, could allow a more considered approach to complex decisions about whether to block content, legal experts say.
Facebook, which says it has 1,200 people in Germany working on reviewing posts out of 14,000 globally responsible for moderating content and account security, said it was not pursuing a strategy to delete more than necessary. Richard Allan,
Facebook's vice president for EMEA public policy said:
People think deleting illegal content is easy but it's not. Facebook reviews every NetzDG report carefully and with legal expertise, where appropriate. When our legal experts advise us, we follow their assessment so we can meet our obligations
under the law.
Johannes Ferchner, spokesman on justice and consumer protection for the Social Democrats and one of the architects of the law said:
We will add a provision so that users have a legal possibility to have unjustly deleted content restored.
Thomas Jarzombek, a Christian Democrat who helped refine the law, said the separate body to review complaints should be established, adding that social media companies were deleting too much online content. NetzDG already allows for such a
self-regulatory body, but companies have chosen to go their own way instead. According to the coalition agreement, both parties want to develop the law to encourage the establishment of such a body.
Authorities in Germany said they have received far fewer complaints from citizens than expected since the
country's social network censorship law (NetzDG) went into effect 01 January, reported Heise Online.
Germany's Federal Office for Justice (BfJ), the division of Germany's Federal Minister of Justice responsible for enforcing the law said they have received only 205 complaints since January, less than 1% of the amount predicted. The German
government had assumed that citizens would file roughly 25,000 complaints with the BfJ .
The European Union has given Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies three months to show that
they are removing extremist content more rapidly or face legislation forcing them to do so.
The European Commission said on Thursday that internet firms should be ready to remove extremist content within an hour of being notified and recommended measures they should take to stop its proliferation. Digital commissioner Andrus Ansip said:
While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before ... we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda and other illegal content which is a serious threat to our citizens' security, safety and fundamental
The EC said that it would assess the need for legislation of technology firms within three months if demonstrable improvement is not made on what it describes as terrorist content. For all other types of 'illegal' content the EC will assess the
technology firms' censorship progress within six months.
It also urged the predominantly US-dominated technology sector to adopt a more proactive approach, with automated systems to detect and censor 'illegal' content.
A controversial Polish law censoring certain claims regarding the Holocaust and banning the use of the phrase Polish death camps went into
Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the bill into law, after it passed by wide margins in both chambers of the Polish legislature.
The law bans the phrase Polish death camps, and outlaws claims of collusion by the Polish nation with the Holocaust. Anyone found guilty of ascribing responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the
German Third Reich could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison under the new law.
In the meantime the phrase "Polish death camps' has never been heard quite so often as in the last couple of months.
An Italian porn star who dreamt up a fun filled stunt at a recent referendum has been banned from Instagram ahead of a
general election lest she repeat it.
Paola Saulino previously promised a blow job for those that voted against constitutional reforms. The reforms were duly rejected Paola launched her Pompa Tour - which translates as Oral Tour - during which she claimed to have pleasured 700 men.
She says she has just been barred from contacting her 430,000 followers over fears she may try and swing the vote, which is due to take place on Sunday.
Saulino said she has complained to Instagram about being banned, saying she is paying the price for her lifestyle
It is a little bizarre that a government that has been in office for long enough to pass plenty of laws that effect people's lives. Presumably if they feel a little insecure, it is because they haven't done a good job in doing things that attract
support. And then to think that elections can be swung by trivial propaganda or a silly stunt, it's insulting to the electors, and so the politicians deserve to be kicked out.
Last week, the European Parliament's MEP in charge of overhauling the EU's copyright laws did a U-turn on his predecessor's
position. Axel Voss is charged with making the EU's copyright laws fit for the Internet Age, yet in a staggering disregard for advice from all quarters, he decided to include a obligation on websites to automatically filter content.
Article 13 sets out how online platforms should manage user-uploaded content appears to have the most dangerous implications for fundamental rights. Never mind that the new Article 13 proposal runs directly contrary to an existing EU law -- the
eCommerce Directive - which prohibits member states from imposing general monitoring obligations on hosting providers.
Six countries -- Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and the Netherlands -- sought advice from the Council's Legal Service last July, asked specifically if the standalone measure/obligation as currently proposed under Article
13 [would] be compatible with the Charter of Human Rights and queried are the proposed measures justified and proportionate? But this does not seem to have been addressed.
The aim of the rule, which is in line with the European Commission's proposals more than a year ago, is to strengthen the music industry in negotiations with the likes of YouTube, Dailymotion, etc. Under Voss' revised Article 13, websites and apps
that allow users to upload content must acquire copyright licenses for EVERYTHING, something that is in practice impossible. If they cannot, those platforms must filter all user-uploaded content.
The truth is that this latest copyright law proposal favors the rights-holders above anyone else. And we though MEPs represented the people.
Madrid's International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO) has pulled a photo exhibition called Political
Prisoners in Contemporary Spain amid controversy because it includes images of Catalan politicians that are currently in jail.
The decision to remove the exhibition within hours of the art fair opening to the press has been attributed to censorship. The exhibition space is government funded so sensitivities have to be observed.
The polemic exhibit contained 24 black and white portraits by Spanish conceptual artist Santiago Sierra, displayed in the stand assigned to the Helga de Alvear gallery.
Gallery organisers were asked to remove the exhibit on Wednesday just hours after a press preview ahead of the art fair opening to the public.
The Spanish Supreme Court has upheld a decision to jail a rapper for three and a half years for a song deemed to have glorified terrorism and insulted the crown, sparking a debate about freedom of expression in the country.
The court rejected arguments by little-known rapper Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran, stage name Valtonyc, that his songs were protected by freedom of expression laws, when ratifying a sentence handed down last February.
Among the lyrics deemed criminal were: Let them be as frightened as a police officer in the Basque Country, a reference to violence against police officers in the region by the now-disarmed Basque separatist group ETA.
Valtonyc went on to fantasize about the king having a rendez-vous at the village square, with a noose around his neck. In another track Valtonyc referenced a Spanish politician and aristocrat involved in a corruption scandal about forcing
her to see how her son lives among rats.
The new German law that compels social media companies to remove hate speech and other illegal content can lead to unaccountable, overbroad censorship and should be promptly reversed, Human Rights Watch said today. The law sets a dangerous
precedent for other governments looking to restrict speech online by forcing companies to censor on the government's behalf. Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch said:
Governments and the public have valid concerns about the proliferation of illegal or abusive content online, but the new German law is fundamentally flawed. It is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid
steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.
Parliament approved the Network Enforcement Act , commonly known as NetzDG, on June 30, 2017, and it took full effect on January 1, 2018. The law requires large social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, to promptly
remove "illegal content," as defined in 22 provisions of the criminal code , ranging widely from insult of public office to actual threats of violence. Faced with fines up to 50 million euro, companies are already removing content to
comply with the law.
At least three countries -- Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines -- have directly cited the German law as a positive example as they contemplate or propose legislation to remove "illegal" content online. The Russian draft law,
currently before the Duma, could apply to larger social media platforms as well as online messaging services.
Two key aspects of the law violate Germany's obligation to respect free speech, Human Rights Watch said. First, the law places the burden on companies that host third-party content to make difficult determinations of when user speech violates the
law, under conditions that encourage suppression of arguably lawful speech. Even courts can find these determinations challenging, as they require a nuanced understanding of context, culture, and law. Faced with short review periods and the risk
of steep fines, companies have little incentive to err on the side of free expression.
Second, the law fails to provide either judicial oversight or a judicial remedy should a cautious corporate decision violate a person's right to speak or access information. In this way, the largest platforms for online expression become "no
accountability" zones, where government pressure to censor evades judicial scrutiny.
At the same time, social media companies operating in Germany and elsewhere have human rights responsibilities toward their users, and they should act to protect them from abuse by others, Human Rights Watch said. This includes stating in user
agreements what content the company will prohibit, providing a mechanism to report objectionable content, investing adequate resources to conduct reviews with relevant regional and language expertise, and offering an appeals process for users who
believe their content was improperly blocked or removed. Threats of violence, invasions of privacy, and severe harassment are often directed against women and minorities and can drive people off the internet or lead to physical attacks.
Irish book censors have not banned a single magazine and have blocked just one book in the last ten years. Now a member of
the Irish Parliament has called for the Censorship of Publications Board to be shut down.
Fianna Fail Arts and Culture Spokesperson Niamh Smyth said: This is one quango that should be whacked. She was referring to a political campaign slogan whack a quango, to shut down quangos. Smyth added:
The ongoing existence of a Censorship Board that doesn't censor anything is bringing the concept of censorship into disrepute at a time where we need it more than ever.
The only time the board has been heard of in ten years was the ludicrous submission of Alan Shatter's novel Laura over something to do with abortion.
Illegal content and terrorist propaganda are still spreading rapidly online in the European Union -- just not on mainstream platforms, new analysis shows.
Twitter, Google and Facebook all play by EU rules when it comes to illegal content, namely hate speech and terrorist propaganda, policing their sites voluntarily.
But with increased scrutiny on mainstream sites, alt-right and terrorist sympathizers are flocking to niche platforms where illegal content is shared freely, security experts and anti-extremism activists say.
Germany is looking into imposing
restrictions on loot boxes in videogames, according to Welt. A study by the University of Hamburg has found that elements of gambling are becoming increasingly common in videogames. It's an important part of the game industry's business model, but
the chairman of the Youth Protection Commission of the State Media Authorities warned that it may violate laws against promoting gambling to children and adolescents.
The Youth Protection Commission will render its decision on loot boxes in March.
Ardalan Shekarabi, the nation's minister of civil affairs, is concerned about making sure Swedish consumer protection laws apply across the board when it comes to gaming. Shekrabi admits that loot boxes are like gambling, but has asked Swedish
authorities to consider whether that's what they should actually be classified as. The idea is to have legislation ready by January of next year to ensure Swedish gamers don't have to worry about a transaction falling outside of the nation's
consumer protection laws in the event something goes south.
Frederic Durand-Baissas, a primary school teacher in Paris, has sued Facebook in French court for violating his freedom of
speech in 2011 by abruptly removing his profile.
Durand-Baissas' account was suspended after he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet's The Origin of the World , a painting from 1866 that depicts female genitalia.
The case was heard on Thursday. His lawyers have asked a Paris civil court to order Facebook Inc. to reactivate the account and to pay Durand-Baissas 20,000 euros ($23,500) in damages. Durand-Baissas also wants Facebook to explain why his account
Lawyers for Facebook argued the lawsuit should be dismissed on a technicality, that Durand-Baissas didn't sue the right Facebook entity. The teacher should have sued Facebook Ireland, the web host for its service in France, and not the
California-based parent company, Facebook Inc., they claimed. Facebook Inc. can't explain why Facebook Ireland deactivated Mr. Durand-Baissas' account, lawyer Caroline Lyannaz said in court.
Facebook's current policy appears to allow postings such as a photo of the Courbet painting. Its standards page now explicitly states: We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.
The civil court's ruling in Durand-Baissas' case is expected on March 15.
Last week, Polish lawmakers granted initial approval to a law that aims to make it illegal to suggest that Poland bore any responsibility for
atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Under the new legislation, individuals could face fines and up to three years in jail for using phrases like Polish death camps (rather than Nazi death camps).
The so-called death camp bill was passed overwhelmingly by Poland's lower legislature.
News of the lower legislature's vote has provoked an international outcry. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that they will under no circumstances accept any attempt to rewrite history, alluding to the fact that although
Poland was occupied by the Nazis, Poles were caught up in the day to day running of the camps. The Smithsonian Museum explained:
During World War II, the Poles suffered a brutal occupation at the hands of the Nazis, who saw the Poles as racially inferior. At least 2.5 million non-Jewish civilians and soldiers died before the war's end, according to the United States
Holocaust Museum. However, the Nazis also drew upon some Polish agencies, such as Polish police forces and railroad personnel, in the guarding of ghettos and the deportation of Jews to the killing centers. Individual Poles often helped in the
identification, denunciation, and hunting down of Jews in hiding, often profiting from the associated blackmail, and actively participated in the plunder of Jewish property.
Poland has long resisted acknowledging its complicity in the Holocaust. Polish lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to pass the controversial bill back in 2013, after then-President Barack Obama referred to Polish death camps during a speech honoring
Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski.
Poland's Senate have approved a controversial bill which makes it illegal to say 'Polish death camps' when meaning Nazi death camps located in Poland, or more generally to infer that Poland had responsibility for Holocaust related operations
within the occupied country.
The bill sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term as punishment. The bill must now be signed off by the president before entering into law. It passed in the upper house of the Polish parliament with 57 votes to 23.
A few MEPs produce YouTube video highlighting the corporate and state censorship that will be enabled by an EU proposal to require social media posts to be approved before posting by an automated censorship machine
In a new campaign video, several Members of the European Parliament warn that the EU's proposed
mandatory upload filters pose a threat to freedom of speech. The new filters would function as censorship machines which are "completely disproportionate," they say. The MEPs encourage the public to speak up, while they still can.
Through a series of new proposals, the European Commission is working hard to modernize
EU copyright law. Among other things, it will require online services to do more to fight piracy.
These proposals have not been without controversy. Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive, for example, has been widely criticized as it would require online services to monitor and filter uploaded content.
This means that online services, which deal with large volumes of user-uploaded content, must use fingerprinting or other detection mechanisms -- similar to YouTube's Content-ID system -- to block copyright infringing files.
The Commission believes that more stringent control is needed to support copyright holders. However, many legal
, digital activists
, and members of the public worry that they will violate the rights of regular Internet users.
In the European Parliament, there is fierce opposition as well. Today, six Members of Parliament (MEPs) from across the political spectrum released a new campaign video warning their fellow colleagues and the public at large.
The MEPs warn that such upload filters would act as censorship machines, something they've made clear to the Council's working group on intellectual property, where the controversial proposal was discussed today.
Imagine if every time you opened your mouth, computers controlled by big companies would check what you were about to say, and have the power to prevent you from saying it, Greens/EFA MEP Julia Reda says.
A new legal proposal would make this a reality when it comes to expressing yourself online: Every clip and every photo would have to be pre-screened by some automated 'robocop' before it could be uploaded and seen online, ALDE MEP Marietje
Stop censorship machines!
Schaake notes that she has dealt with the consequences of upload filters herself. When she uploaded a recording of a political speech to YouTube, the site took it down without explanation. Until this day, the MEP still doesn't know on what grounds
it was removed.
These broad upload filters are completely disproportionate and a danger for freedom of speech, the MEPs warn. The automated systems make mistakes and can't properly detect whether something's fair use, for example.
Another problem is that the measures will be relatively costly for smaller companies ,which puts them at a competitive disadvantage. "Only the biggest platforms can afford them -- European competitors and small businesses will struggle,"
ECR MEP Dan Dalton says.
The plans can still be stopped, the MEPs say. They are currently scheduled for a vote in the Legal Affairs Committee at the end of March, and the video encourages members of the public to raise their voices.
Speak out ...while you can still do so unfiltered! S&D MEP Catherine Stihler says.
The third evaluation of the EU's 'Code of Conduct' on censoring 'illegal online hate speech' carried out by NGOs and
public bodies shows that IT companies removed on average 70% of posts claimed to contain 'illegal hate speech'.
However, some further challenges still remain, in particular the lack of systematic feedback to users.
Google+ announced today that they are joining the Code of Conduct, and Facebook confirmed that Instagram would also do so, thus further expanding the numbers of actors covered by it.
Vera Jourová, with the oxymoronic title of EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said:
The Internet must be a safe place, free from illegal hate speech, free from xenophobic and racist content. The Code of Conduct is now proving to be a valuable tool to tackle illegal content quickly and efficiently. This shows that where there is
a strong collaboration between technology companies, civil society and policy makers we can get results, and at the same time, preserve freedom of speech. I expect IT companies to show similar determination when working on other important issues,
such as the fight with terrorism, or unfavourable terms and conditions for their users.
On average, IT companies removed 70% of all the 'illegal hate speech' notified to them by the NGOs and public bodies participating in the evaluation. This rate has steadily increased from 28% in the first monitoring round in 2016 and 59% in the
second monitoring exercise in May 2017.T
The Commission will continue to monitor regularly the implementation of the Code by the participating IT Companies with the help of civil society organisations and aims at widening it to further online platforms. The Commission will consider
additional measures if efforts are not pursued or slow down.
Of course no mention of the possibility that some of the reports of supposed 'illegal hate speech' are not actioned because they are simply wrong and may be just the politically correct being easily offended. We seem to live in an injust age where
the accuser is always considered right and the merits of the case count for absolutely nothing.
Germany's justice minister fell victim to the rules he himself championed against online
social media when one of his tweets was deleted following several complaints.
The censored tweet dated back to 2010, when Heiko Maas was not yet minister. in the tweet he had called Thilo Sarrazin, a politician who wrote a controversial book on Muslim immigrants, an idiot.
Maas told Bild on Monday that he did not receive any information from Twitter about why the tweet was deleted, or whether it would be deleted from Twitter.
Germany meanwhile signalled on Monday it was open to amending the controversial law which combats online hate speech. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said an evaluation would be carried out within six months to examine how well the new law
Germany's NetzDG internet censorship law has been in force since the New Year and has already sparked multiple controversies. Opposition
parties across the political spectrum already say its time for change.
Senior figures in the rival Free Democratic (FDP), Green and Left parties on Sunday demanded lawmakers replace Germany's recently passed online hate speech law. The call comes after Twitter decided to delete allegedly offensive statements by
far-right politicians and suspend the account of a German satirical magazine.
The last few days have emphatically shown that private companies cannot correctly determine whether a questionable online statement is illegal, satirical or tasteless yet still democratically legitimate, the FDP's general secretary Nicola Beer
told Germany weekly Die Welt am Sonntag .
Beer said Germany needed a law similar to the one the FDP proposed before Christmas that would give an appropriately endowed authority the right to enforce the rule of law online rather than give private companies the right to determine the
illegality of flagged content.
Green Party Chairwoman Simone Peter has also called for a replacement law that would take away the right of private companies to make decisions regarding flagged content. He said:
It is not acceptable for US companies such as Twitter to influence freedom of expression or press freedoms in Germany. Last year, we proposed a clear legal alternative that would hold platforms such as Twitter accountable without making them
Greens' internet policy spokesman, Konstantin von Notz, also criticized the current statute, telling the newspaper that the need for reform the law was overdue.
Left leader Sarah Wagenknecht added:
The law is a slap in the face of all democratic principles because, in a constitutional state, courts rather than private companies make decisions about what is lawful and what is not.
A censorship row has erupted in Paris after publishing house Gallimard announced it would publish a collection of pro-Hitler pamphlets by the otherwise notable novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
Céline is hailed as one of France's most brilliant writers for his 1932 novel Journey to the End of the Night, regarded as one of the greatest French works of the 20th century.
Gallimard has insisted it will go ahead with the publication of Bagatelles pour un massacre, a collection of 1930s pamphlets by Céline, who called for the extermination of Jews. The publication date is not set but Gallimard has
insisted its intention is to frame the texts with a critical commentary.
When Gallimard was reported to be about to publish the collection last spring, the government stepped in and summoned the publisher. The government urged the publisher to include notes giving the full context drawn up by specialists, including
historians. The editor is understood to have rejected this, claiming that notes by a literary expert on Céline would suffice.
Serge Klarsfeld, a French lawyer and Nazi-hunter has demanded the publication be stopped, threatening legal action if Gallimard continues. He said he supported historians studying the texts, but said that presenting a shiny new edition of Céline's
"abject" writing in bookshops would be "intolerable" and no amount of footnotes could temper that.
The book has already been published in Canada in 2012, although Le Monde warned that the Canadian edition's notes were insufficient.
The Twitter account of German satirical magazine Titanic was blocked after it parodied anti-Muslim
comments by AfD MP Beatrix von Storch.
She accused police of trying to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men by putting out a tweet in Arabic.
On Tuesday night, the magazine published a tweet parodying von Storch, saying:
The last thing that I want is mollified barbarian, Muslim, gang-raping hordes of men.
Titanic said on Wednesday its Twitter account had been blocked over the message, presumably as a result of a new law requiring social media sites to immediately block hateful comments on threat of massive fines. There is no time allowed or
economic reason for assessing the merits of censorship claims, so social media companies are just censoring everything on demand, just in case.
Germany starts enforcing an internet censorship law where contested content has to be taken down pronto by
social media who will suffer massive fines of they don't comply.
The law is supposedly targeted at obviously illegal hate speech, but surely it will be used to take down content anyone doesn't like for any reason. The threats of fines and short time allowed simply means that websites will opt for the easiest
and most economic policy, and that is to take down anything contested.
The new law states the sites that do not remove obviously illegal posts could face fines of up to 50m euro. The law gives the networks 24 hours to act after they have been told about law-breaking material.
Social networks and media sites with more than two million members will fall under the law's provisions. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law's main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network
VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in its provisions.
Facebook has reportedly recruited several hundred staff in Germany to deal with reports about content that breaks the NetzDG and to do a better job of monitoring what people post.
Update: First examples of fair free speech being censored in Germany
Sophie Passmann is an unlikely poster child for Germany's new online hate speech laws.
The 24-year-old comedian from Cologne posted a satirical message on Twitter early on New Year's Day, mocking the German far right's fear that the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that have entered the country in recent years would endanger
Germany's culture. Instead of entertaining her more than 14,000 Twitter followers , Passmann's tweet was blocked within nine hours by the American social media giant, telling users in Germany that Passmann's message had run afoul of local laws.
Germany's rightwing AfD party have been busy with political posters pointing out that they will be the likely victims of censorship
under Germany's new law.
And they will certainly have a good claim. The new law will surely over censor, and any complaint will end up in a censored post, regardless of the merits of the claim. A slightly UnPC post by AfD is likely to be blocked, and so the AfD will
rightly be able to highlight the censorship.
The publicity for examples of censorship will surely chime with a significant proportion of the German population, and so will add to the general level of disaffection with the political elite.
Perhaps Germany ought to at least ensure that censorship should be based on the merits of the case, not implemented by a commercial company who only cares about the cheapest possible method of meeting the censorship requirements.
Emmanuel Macron has vowed to introduce a law to censor 'fake news' on the internet during French election
campaigns. He claimed he wanted new legislation for social media platforms during election periods in order to protect democracy.
For fake news published during election seasons, an emergency legal action could allow authorities to remove that content or even block the website, Macron said. If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules.
He said France's media censor, the CSA, would be empowered to fight against any attempt at destabilisation by TV stations controlled or influenced by foreign states. Macron said he wanted to act against what he called propaganda articulated
by thousands of social media accounts.
Macron has an axe to grind about fake news, during the election campaign in spring 2017 he filed a legal complaint after Le Pen, the Front National leader, referred to fake stories about him placing funds in an offshore account in the Bahamas.
Also a bogus website resembling the site of the Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported that Saudi Arabia was financing Macron's campaign. Le Soir totally distanced itself from the report.