German Law on the Protection of Digital Violence Must Not Curtail Civil Rights

The German Federal Ministry of Justice (BMJ) currently intends to draft a “law on the protection of digital violence”, which is intended to strengthen private law enforcement. In preparation for this draft law, the BMJ drew up a key points paper on 12 April. The Association of the Internet Industry has now produced a position paper (in German language) on these key points:

“Combatting illegal internet content is a central task for us, one that we have been intrinsically motivated to carry out as an association for over 25 years. At the eco Complaints Office, we make sure that illegal content is taken down from the Internet and that criminal offences are reported to the police. In this respect, we can understand why the Federal Ministry of Justice wants to introduce the law on the protection of digital violence, but we still see an urgent need for clarification of the law’s structure. Based on the current version, civil rights such as freedom of expression and the right to informational self-determination could be violated, because the application area is not defined clearly enough in the planned law. On the grounds of legal certainty and proportionality alone, the broad field of civil law claims for information in cases of digital violence must be limited to clearly defined offences and facts.” This is spelt out by the Head of the eco Complaints Office Alexandra Koch-Skiba.

As eco sees it, it is also essential that a court order is always issued for the obligation for telemedia and messenger providers to disclose information on user data, as well as the obligation for disclosure on behalf of Internet access providers.

“The judicial order envisaged in the BMJ’s key points is absolutely vital in order to guarantee monitoring under rule of law regarding the right to disclosure. In view of the fact that the right to disclosure and the right to secrecy of telecommunications are already irreparably affected by the disclosure of information, a waiver of the procedural protection of the judicial order and thus the absence of constitutional control would represent a particularly serious and constitutionally unacceptable encroachment,” warns Koch-Skiba.


Alexandra Koch Skiba