Headline, October 15 2022/ ''' '' GERMANY'S -INTERNET- GEARINGS '' '''


 GEARINGS '' '''

HATE SPEECH - EXTREMISM - MISOGYNY AND MISINFORMATION are well known by -products of the Internet. But the people behind the most toxic online behavior typically avoid personal major real world consequences.

CRACKDOWN ON INTERNET HATE : Sharing insults online in Germany can lead to hefty fines and even jail time.

When the police pounded the door before dawn at a home in northwest Germany, a bleary-eyed young man in his boxer shorts answered. The officers asked for his father, who was at work.

They told him that his 51-year-old father was accused of violating laws against online hate speech, insults and misinformation. He had shared an image on  Facebook with an inflammatory statement about immigration falsely attributed to a German politician. ''Just because someone rapes, robs or is a serious criminal is not a reason for deportation,'' the fake remark said.

The police then scoured his home for about 30 minutes, seizing a laptop and tablet as evidence, prosecutors said.

AT THAT exact moment in March, similar scenes were playing about 100 homes across Germany, part of a coordinated nationwide crackdown that continues to this day.

After people shared images circulating on Facebook that carried fake statements, their devices were confiscated, and some were fined.

''We are making it clear that anyone who posts hate messages must expect police to be at the front door afterward,'' Holger Minch, the head of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said after the March raids.

Most Western democracies like the United States have avoided policing the Internet because of free speech rights, leaving a sea of slurs, focussed harassment and tweets telling public figures they'd better off dead. At most, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter removes a post or suspends an account.

But over the past several years, Germany has forged another path, criminally prosecuting people for online hate speech.

The German authorities have brought charges for insults, threats and harassment. The police have raided homes, confiscated electronics and taken  people in for questioning. Judges have enforced fines for thousands of dollars and in some cases sent offenders to jail.

The threat of prosecution, they believe, will not eradicate hate online, but it will push some of the worst behavior back into the shadows.

In doing so, they have flipped inside out what, to American ears, it means to protect free speech. The authorities in Germany argue they are encouraging  and defending free speech by providing space where people can share opinions without fear of being attacked or abused.

'' There has to be a line you cannot cross,'' said Svenja Meininghaus, a state prosecutor who attended the raid of the father's house.'' There has to be consequences.''

But even in Germany, where the stain of Nazism drives a belief that free speech is not absolute, the crackdown is generating fierce debate : How far is too far?

Frank-Michael Laue, who started one surveillance unit after a two decade career as a criminal prosecutor, said that stiff penalties draw attention and change behavior. He boasted of fining a well-known painter in the community the equivalent of $10,000 for sharing insults about Turkish immigrants.

When people refuse to give access to their smartphones for evidence, Mr. Laue said, the device can be sent to a lab operated by the federal government that uses software that can bypass passwords. 

Made by a company called Cellebrite, it is the same kind of software used by the FBI in the US. Investigators scour social media feeds, publicly available records and government data to build cases. Swen Weiland, a software developer turned internet hate speech investigator, is in charge of unmasking people behind anonymous accounts.

He hunts for clues about where a person lives and works, and connections to friends and family.

''I try to find out what they do in their normal life,'' Mr. Weiland said. ''If I find where they live or their relatives, then I can get the real person. The Internet does not forget.''

Police officers and prosecutors say that detective work is required because social media companies rarely turn over user information, unless there is an imminent threat of violence.

Meta, Google and Twitter recently won a court challenge to stop an expansion of the Network Enforcement Act that would have required the companies to notify the government when they detected online hate speech and other illicit content, which could have led to thousands of new cases per year.

Google said in a statement that it provided information in 85 percent of requests from authorities, but that the proposed law to provide the authorities user data without legal orders '' undermines fundamental rights. ''

Twitter said it worked closely with law enforcement in Germany, while balancing ''protecting freedom of expression.'' Meta declined to comment.

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Social Media, Internet Hate and  State Laws, continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Adam Satariano and Christopher F. Schuetze.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Germany and then the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society - the exclusive ownership of every student in the world : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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