Owing to constitutional concerns, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has for the moment suspended the drafting of the German law on combating right-wing extremism and hate crime. The legislative package contains extensive information obligations for telemedia service providers and a reporting obligation for social network operators, who in the future would be expected to report illegal content to the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), including the inventory data of their users.
Going back a number of months, eco – Association of the Internet Industry had already expressed considerable constitutional and data protection concerns about the draft law and clarified these in an official (German-language) statement on the law on combating right-wing extremism and hate crime*, as well as in the hearing of the responsible legal committee.
eco Chair of the Board Oliver Süme has the following to say:
“The German Federal President’s assessment sends an important signal to the federal government that the fight against hate speech on the Internet can only work if data protection is simultaneously guaranteed. Politicians, Internet companies and civil society must now work closely together to find effective strategies to combat hate speech and right-wing extremism. The overriding goal must be the responsible use of the Internet. In any case, a law that is essentially unconstitutional and does not take sufficient account of the data protection of social network users is the wrong move to make. The temporary suspension of the drafting process therefore represents a logical and important step. The German federal government should now quickly amend the law – and do so in the interests of the constitution and data protection.”
*Concerns expressed in the eco Association statement include the beliefs that:
- The extension of the NetzDG to introduce a reporting obligation for social network operators would lead to numerous legal difficulties for social network operators – especially those based abroad – and to a multitude of violations of the GDPR;
- The obligation to report is constitutionally questionable, given that it is intended to release user data (IP address and port number) purely on the basis of mere suspicion, and without concrete evidence;
- The proposed disclosure of user passwords by telemedia service providers would represent a deep encroachment on user rights and the privacy of users;
- When it comes to proposed data storage with the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), greater clarity with regard to data handling and the deletion of data records is imperative;
- The draft law contains a clear lack of constitutional control mechanisms.