German police began house raids across the nation on Wednesday, against people accused of spreading hate speech on social media. In a press release, German police said that about 60 people were searched. Most of them had posted extremist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic messages. The operation went on across 14 provinces, involving 25 police departments.
Online hate speech skyrocketed in Germany, partly because of the ongoing refugee crisis. The country took in over a million asylum seekers, mostly from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq. This led to far-right protests and violence. A survey released earlier this week showed that six in ten Germans believe refugees represent an increase in terrorism and will eventually harm the German economy.
As a response, German authorities tried to crack down on hate speech on on-line platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Last year, Facebook put together a task force to remove hateful content rapidly. This came after accusations from Germany’s minister of justice that Facebook was too slow to censor such material. In December, the three media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google decided to remove racist and dangerous content within 24 hours, under an agreement with the local government.
In the press release, the German police said the operation which took place this week aimed to combat “a strong rise in verbal radicalism.” The suspects are accused because they posted hateful content on a private Facebook group, between July and November 2015.
Holger Munch, head of the German Police Department, said that attacks on refugees come after social networks radicalization, most times. He also believes that these words have the potential to poison the social climate.
German police are committed to solving hate speech and Internet provocation. The special police unit, which combines state and federal police, was set up after Bavarian police noticed “hate posts” published secretly on Facebook pages, between July and November 2015.
These posts often praised Nazis, included anti-semitic content and other illegal far-right claims. German law punishes (verbal) violence against people due to their religious or ethnic background with a sentence of up to three years of jail time.
Several people paid heavy fines for writing racist posts on Facebook. Lutz Bachmann, the leader of the xenophobic Pegida organization, was fined close to 10,000 euros for calling refugees “scum” in Facebook posts.
Image Source – Wikipedia