I have been a long critic of Germany’s criminal speech laws, including its long criminalization of Nazi symbols. While I am certainly sympathetic to the Germans in seeking to end the scourge of fascism, there has been little evidence that the German laws prohibiting certain symbols and phrases have achieved anything other than expanding government power over political speech. It has also created an insatiable appetite for censorship among German citizens. I fail to see how arresting a man for a Hitler ringtone is achieving a meaningful level of deterrence, even if you ignore the free speech implications.
For Maas, his speech was curtailed due to expressing his opinion of Thilo Sarrazin, a politician and the author of a controversial book on Muslim immigrants.
We recently discussed how Germany is extending its criminalization of speech to the Internet. Germany imposed 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.
Maas of course could only dutifully accept his own censorship given his role in prosecuting others for views or speech deemed inappropriate. He is quoted as saying that he has learned to conform his speech and “there are things that I would no longer tweet today.” He insists “I’ve learnt that over the years.”
It is a lesson that he is eager to teach to not only Germans but non-Germans under the new regime of speech controls implemented under Merkel.