I recently wrote about the growing threat of government regulation of speech on the Internet under the guise of combatting “fake news.” Germany has been ground zero for civil libertarians for the rollback of free speech. 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, Germany is considering imposing a legal regime that would allow fining social networks such as Facebook up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for each day the platform leaves a “fake news” story up without deleting it. Governments have finally found a vehicle to get citizens to allow them to curtail or chill speech — ironically in the name of facilitating “real news” or “truth.” It is perfectly Orwellian and Merkel’s latest contribution to the erosion of free speech in the West. I recently discussed the issue as part of an interesting segment with Ted Koppel.
Few companies will risk such crippling fines, resulting in self-censorship from the chilling effect of the law. The bill would require companies to flag “fake news” and impose civil liability on companies. Germany’s parliamentary chief of the Social Democrat party, Thomas Oppermann is quoted as saying “If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros.”
Other lawmakers are reportedly moving toward criminalizing anything the government deems to be “fake news.”
So government officials will now be allowed to simply proclaim certain postings as untrue and either fine the networks or even criminally charge individuals — all in the name of protecting “the truth.” What is astonishing is that many in the public are supporting this rollback on the critical protection of free speech. The left appears to be leading this crusade for greater government censorship in both Europe and the United States. Fake news is simply proclaimed to be a threat to democracy and citizens support the limitation of free speech to protect “freedom”? It is precisely the moment described by Benjamin Franklin when he said “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”