Photo Credit: Phoenix video on YouTube screenshot
German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht

The German government on Wednesday approved a bill cracking down on hate speech on social media. Should it be passed by the both houses of parliament, it would compel social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to report online hate crimes to Germany’s Federal Criminal Police (BKA), Deutsche Welle reported.

The law includes in the definition of hate speech posts far-right propaganda, graphic violence, threats of murder and rape, planned terrorist attack, and child pornography.

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Social networks are already required by law in Germany to delete these posts, but the new bill also widens the definition of criminal hate speech: it now includes threats to rape or damage property, and also approval for serious crimes.

The new bill also assigns tougher sentences to Anti-Semitic crimes.

The bill awaits approval by Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, and the Bundesrat, the upper house.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht defended the bill, saying, “We must dry up the breeding ground where extremism flourishes,” adding that “Racism and misogyny are often close to each other when it comes to instigators.”

According to Germany’s Interior Ministry, as of 2018, politically motivated crime increased by close to 20%, and hate crimes with anti-Semitic and xenophobic motives were committed by rightwing extremists.

According to Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, a scientific adviser to the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), anti-Semitism is rising rapidly in the EU. “We have observed an increase in acts of violence against Jews in certain countries,” Dimitrakopoulos said, adding that “the kind of anti-Semitism that permeates these societies makes Jews feel they cannot live like others and that they cannot live as Jews in their home countries.”

“Aside from the horrific crimes perpetrated in Halle, the harassment, verbal abuse and belittling of Jews has become normal in some European societies today — that is a deeply worrying trend,” Dimitrakopoulos said.

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