Chilling effect of bad hate speech laws
2018-05-01 15:42:22 -

New online hate speech legislation was brought in by Germany earlier this year. The law, described as one of the harshest in the continent, compels social media companies to remove hate speech on their platforms or face massive fines.


While the move is believed to have helped temper the rising level of hate speech in the country, opponents of the new law argue that it is having a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Several entertainers have also warned that the law is killing their business, as it has already led to the deletion of several works by cartoonists and comedians.


“There shouldn’t be a law against bad jokes, because that would mean that half the comedians in Germany wouldn’t be allowed on stage,” said comedian Sophie Passmann, one of the first to claim tweets of theirs were deleted under the new law.


While Metro Éireann agrees with Passmann in principle, there is need for a balance – a distinction must be drawn between a joke in its intended context, and speech intended to incite hatred or harm against a minority group. The law as it stands does not make any such distinction.


So while German authorities are to be commended for making efforts in the right direction on an issue many other European countries have largely ignored, they must also revisit the new law for its unintended consequences.

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