German Chancellor Angela Merkel long ago established herself as a menace to free speech, particularly in her decision to first apologize to authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a satirical poem and then approve the prosecution of the comedian is a shocking and chilling disgrace. Now, she is throwing her support behind a crackdown on “hate speech” on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — radically expanding the already broad scope of government regulation of speech.
Merkel declared “I support efforts by Justice Minister Heiko Maas and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to address hate speech, hate commentaries, devastating things that are incompatible with human dignity, and to do everything to prohibit it because it contradicts our values.”
“Incompatibility with human dignity”? That is a standard that virtually defies definition. It would leave the government in the position to determine who is insulting “human dignity.”
Merkel is also threatening social media companies to get rid of “fake news” or risk a government crackdown. Merkel appears to fear that social media bots could influence German elections after President Obama flagged the role of fake news in the Trump election. Merkel insisted that such postings must be dealt with by the companies or the government will step in.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).
Merkel is clearly “all in” on the crackdown on free speech. The question is whether the German people will or can reverse this trend against this defining right of fundamental civil liberties and human rights.
What do you think?