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Germany Wants Facebook To Obey Its Rules About Holocaust Denial 728

Bruce66423 writes: In a classic example of the conflict of cultures bought about by the internet, Germany is trying to get Facebook to obey its rules about banning holocaust denial posts. From the linked Jerusalem Post article: [Justice Minister Heiko] Maas, who has accused Facebook of doing too little to thwart racist and hate posts on its social media platform, said that Germany has zero tolerance for such expression and expects the US-based company to be more vigilant. "One thing is clear: if Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws," Maas told Reuters. "It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does." "Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany and it doesn't matter if they're posted on Facebook or uttered out in the public on the market square," he added. ... "There's no scope for misplaced tolerance towards internet users who spread racist propaganda. That's especially the case in light of our German history."
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Germany Wants Facebook To Obey Its Rules About Holocaust Denial

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  • by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @03:27PM (#50417005)

    I'm pretty sure Germany's had laws about denial of the holocaust since well before modern internet culture was around.

    • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @03:59PM (#50417169)

      They modified the law against "incitement of the people" from 1871 in 1959 to include holocaust denial explicitly. In 1994 is was changed again and the maximum sentence was increased (at least this is what wikipedia knows).

      • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:34PM (#50417373)

        As times change the meaning of the laws changes as well. For the last generation or so laws that target Holocaust denial are almost entirely about targeting critics of Israel. On the one hand by equating critics of Israel with antisemites, on the other hand by equating the Holocaust denial that is common in the arab world with german or western european Holocaust denial. In fact the two are very different. the latter is denial of guilt, or it used to be that, while the former is not. In the arab world Holocaust denial is highly correlated with recent Israeli operations against for instance Gaza. It's an act of spite.

        And really, I've read that 97% of the inhabitants of Gaza are antisemites. Authoritative poll. That conclusion is completely daft.

        • by bryanp ( 160522 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @05:41PM (#50417699)

          And really, I've read that 97% of the inhabitants of Gaza are antisemites.

          I have my doubts about that, considering that Arabs are a semitic people.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tinkerton ( 199273 )

            That's just wordgames. The common interpretation is anti-jew.

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @06:11PM (#50417809)
              Everything is word games. The questions asked will be "Do you believe the Jews have the sole right to Israel and the surrounding territory?" Any answer other that "Yes, it is their right and destiny" is counted as antisemitic.

              Also, anti-zionist will be lumped in with anti-semitic. So to be clear, one must define their words. This is true in all emotionally charged debates, so "wordgames" means "I don't have a fucking clue, but I listen to the side that says what I like to hear".
              • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @06:45PM (#50417977)

                Clear communication does not require precise definition and in fact this often works counterproductive. The word 'antisemitic' is generally understood as being against Jews, in a way that resembles european attitudes against Jews in the thirties for instance
                That part of it is clear enough. Picking a logical but unused meaning of the word does not add clarity. The part that does demand attention is what is sufficient to put someone into that basket and you give examples of that.

            • And? Organic is commonly used to mean how something was grown instead of the correct meaning of "carbon based". Just because a lot of people misuse a term doesn't change the meaning of the word.

        • by Trepidity ( 597 )

          I don't see much evidence that it has to do with criticism of Israel. The laws in Germany are mostly used to target the domestic far-right, NPD types, who don't really like Israel.

      • They modified the law against "incitement of the people" from 1871 in 1959 to include holocaust denial explicitly.

        Yes, and as we all know, Germany has been peaceful and democratic since 1871, thanks to its restrictions on free speech and civil liberties! Oh, wait...

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:06PM (#50417215)

      I'm pretty sure Germany's had laws about denial of the holocaust since well before modern internet culture was around.

      Sure, but that didn't cause much conflict with other cultures. German laws only applied to Germany. But with the Internet, it is common to find forums that mingle people from different cultures, and different legal jurisdictions. One of the big differences between cultures, is how they deal with the tradeoff between "freedom" and "order". Americans and Germans see that tradeoff from very different historical perspectives, and make very different tradeoffs. As an American, I believe that people should be able to express even the most odious opinions, and suppression of those opinions causes more problems than it solves. The Germans see it differently.

      ... then they came for the Nazis, and I did not speak out because I was not a Nazi.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I'm pretty sure Germany's had laws about denial of the holocaust since well before modern internet culture was around.

        Sure, but that didn't cause much conflict with other cultures. German laws only applied to Germany. But with the Internet, it is common to find forums that mingle people from different cultures, and different legal jurisdictions. One of the big differences between cultures, is how they deal with the tradeoff between "freedom" and "order". Americans and Germans see that tradeoff from very different historical perspectives, and make very different tradeoffs. As an American, I believe that people should be able to express even the most odious opinions, and suppression of those opinions causes more problems than it solves. The Germans see it differently.

        ... then they came for the Nazis, and I did not speak out because I was not a Nazi.

        Of course this isn't really about Nazis and Holocaust denial. It's actually about all kind of racist posts and other hate speech. Which Facebook says they would delete in their Community Standards [facebook.com] (yes, even in the US, so the cultures argument is bogus really):

        Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their: Race, Ethnicity, National origin, Religious affiliation, Sexual orientation, Sex, gender, or gender identity, or Serious disabilities or diseases.

        But the real fun part is that "users also accuse the company of double standards for cracking down swifter and harder on nudity and sexual content than on hate-mongering."

        So first the come for the nude people, you fucking asshole.

    • Actually since shortly after WW2.

      Guess who insisted those laws come into existence. Hint: Germany could issue no laws without the consent of the occupying forces, and usually did at the request or rather demand of them.

  • I thought it was an unconditional surrender.

    "There's no scope for misplaced tolerance towards internet users who spread racist propaganda. That's especially the case in light of our German history."

    Perhaps a more important lesson "in light of our German history" is learning that dictators require the power to silence opposition...especially political opposition. They can't wield it if it doesn't exist. Now it does. History gives no confidence it won't ultimately be misused. Your own country, along with ancient Greece and Rome, are prime examples of nominal free democracies that gave up "emergency powers" to someone who never gave it back.

    • I thought it was an unconditional surrender.

      The Allies wanted the law against Holocaust denial in Germany...

  • The reason Germany has these laws is as a form of oppression. After WW2, the Allies wanted Germany to join their side against the USSR, but they needed to make sure the Nazis didn't rise again. This oppressive speech law, and others, were the way that was accomplished. It is a clear attempt to oppress the country's freedom of self-determination.

    Don't be mistaken and think that these laws are a model of free speech.
    • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:10PM (#50417235)

      The reason Germany has these laws is as a form of oppression. After WW2, the Allies wanted Germany to join their side against the USSR, but they needed to make sure the Nazis didn't rise again. This oppressive speech law, and others, were the way that was accomplished. It is a clear attempt to oppress the country's freedom of self-determination.

      It was quite reasonable for the victors of WWII to impose temporary restrictions on free speech, given Germany's history. And in the short term, those restrictions were effective. Such restrictions weren't particularly burdensome either, since Germans never had enjoyed free speech rights before. The post-WWII restrictions by the allies were still liberal by historical German standards.

      Today, Germany is largely its own master. It could easily abolish these restrictions on free speech if it wanted to. They are retained because Germans like such restrictions, not because anybody is forcing them to.

      • It was quite reasonable for the victors of WWII to impose temporary restrictions on free speech, given Germany's history. And in the short term, those restrictions were effective.

        Yes.

        Today, Germany is largely its own master. It could easily abolish these restrictions on free speech if it wanted to.

        Also yes (and thank goodness......who wants to be in charge of some other country?)

        • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @05:07PM (#50417517)

          I think you missed the implication: if Germany wants to grow up and become a free and democratic nation, it needs to get rid of these remnants from its dark past.

          • Yes, one segment of German society is oppressing another segment, there is no doubt about that.
      • The reason Germany has these laws is as a form of oppression. After WW2, the Allies wanted Germany to join their side against the USSR, but they needed to make sure the Nazis didn't rise again. This oppressive speech law, and others, were the way that was accomplished. It is a clear attempt to oppress the country's freedom of self-determination.

        It was quite reasonable for the victors of WWII to impose temporary restrictions on free speech, given Germany's history. And in the short term, those restrictions were effective. Such restrictions weren't particularly burdensome either, since Germans never had enjoyed free speech rights before. The post-WWII restrictions by the allies were still liberal by historical German standards.

        Today, Germany is largely its own master. It could easily abolish these restrictions on free speech if it wanted to. They are retained because Germans like such restrictions, not because anybody is forcing them to.

        Like is a strong word. It is more that no one wants to be "soft on nazis", and they still have neo-nazis.

    • by andymadigan ( 792996 ) <amadigan.gmail@com> on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:41PM (#50417405)
      All of these comments about why the law exists are off base. Germany is fully aware that there are still Nazis within its borders. These Nazis are quite simply evil. They are incredibly dangerous, but it would be politically untenable to lock them all up, so instead measures are taken to prevent them from spreading their ideas or gaining power.

      Examples of this:
      - The BfV (office for protection of the constitution), the domestic intelligence agency, primarily charged with monitoring right wing extremists and disrupting their organizations when possible.
      - Home-schooling is illegal in Germany, this is to prevent Nazis from isolating their children from opposing viewpoints, thus hopefully ensuring that eventually the Nazi ideology dies out entirely.
      - Restrictions on use of Nazi symbols and Nazi speech (including Holocaust denial)
      - Restrictions on certain forms of political speech. For instance, it's illegal to give a public speech or make an advertisement claiming that a particular racial group (e.g. Roma) should not be eligible to receive social benefits, the right to which are enshrined in the constitution.

      This is what you do when you want to have a free country, but a minority wants to literally destroy the concept of freedom. The Nazis that are left have to be opposed at every turn lest they spread their disease to others, and enshrining such measures in law adds a measure of comfort that they will never gain power again. If we (the U.S.) had any sense we'd do the same thing with the KKK and symbols of the Confederacy - keeping in mind that this country has engaged in internment, forced sterilization, and genocidal war on the basis of race in the past, and a major candidate for President is running on a platform that includes scapegoating particular groups for economic problems.

      None of this, by the way, really infringes on free speech in Germany. The German people take their civil rights very seriously, see for example public reaction and protests over the Netzpolitik scandal.
      • If we (the U.S.) had any sense we'd do the same thing with the KKK and symbols of the Confederacy - keeping in mind that this country has engaged in internment, forced sterilization, and genocidal war on the basis of race in the past, and a major candidate for President is running on a platform that includes scapegoating particular groups for economic problems.

        That's all good when you're the one choosing who gets to be censored.

      • All of these comments about why the law exists are off base. Germany is fully aware that there are still Nazis within its borders. These Nazis are quite simply evil. They are incredibly dangerous, but it would be politically untenable to lock them all up, so instead measures are taken to prevent them from spreading their ideas or gaining power.

        There are Nazis and right wing extremists in every country. What distinguishes Germany is that they got into power in 1933. And they didn't get into power because Ger

      • by jcr ( 53032 )

        If we (the U.S.) had any sense we'd do the same thing with the KKK and symbols of the Confederacy

        So, you're claiming that overruling the first amendment is a "sensible" thing to do? Maybe it's just as sensible to forcibly shut YOU up, since you're obviously hostile to our tradition of free speech, you un-American traitor. By your own "logic", you have no grounds to object.

        -jcr

    • Is the argument that evil, at any extreme, has the right to expression, in the name of free speech?

      Does it follow then that you are willing to have the representatives from ISIS come to your local high schools and colleges and use their persuasive tactics to entice your neighbors and their children to massacre innocents in the name of some evil interpretation? Sleep well.

      Why shouldn’t a country that has experienced an evil, magnitudes greater than ISIS, be allowed to determine what can, and what can

  • long history indeed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @03:41PM (#50417049)

    "It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does."

    True: Germany has limited freedom of speech for centuries. It didn't prevent the Nazi rise to power, and it arguably contributed to it.

    Perhaps it's time for Germany to actually change its "interpretation of freedom of speech" instead of clinging on to what hasn't worked historically.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      What speech laws did Weimar Germany have? In practice, at least, virtually anything was permitted, from the revolutionary far-left to the revolutionary far-right, and everything in between. Hitler was never arrested for his speech; the only time he was arrested (1923), was because he led an armed paramilitary group to attempt a coup.

  • I just read: "There's no scope for misplaced tolerance towards group a".

    I have mixed feelings...

  • Hate speech (Score:2, Interesting)

    by prefec2 ( 875483 )

    Maas requests that Facebook obeys the law and deletes posts containing hate speech and calls for violence. Such shit is even illegal in the US. However, FB is unwilling to comply. They have no problem filtering naked breasts out (which would in most cases be no problem in Germany, but are a problem in the US for no apparent reason). BTW the hate speech going on in FB in Germany is written by Germans and in read by Germans and it is illegal in Germany, so it would be sufficient if FB would employ people able

    • However, FB is unwilling to comply.

      There is no evidence that FB is "unwilling to comply". They haven't responded yet, and there are no legal charges or indictments. Maas wanted press coverage and appeal to German nationalism, and you have fallen for it.

      Personally, I wish Facebook and other Internet companies actually had the balls to close their German operations and tell these proto-fascists to get lost.

      • Maas wanted... [to] appeal to German nationalism,

        The irony of which would be hilarious, if it wasn't terrifying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If Germany has a problem with German citizens why doesn't it create an internal security police--let's call it "Gestapo"--to locate those citizens writing illegal words and imprison them--perhaps in a network of work camps? Rumors that gas chambers are planned for these camps are of course ridiculous!
  • Recent events (Score:5, Informative)

    by demon driver ( 1046738 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @03:49PM (#50417095) Journal

    Maas' statement is to be seen in the light of recent events. Following a larger-than-usual wave of refugees, there has been a major outbreak of racist uproar in (mostly eastern) Germany, not only on the Net, but on the streets, too, with groups of neonazi extremists allied with so-called "concerned citizens" demonstrating, shouting hate and sometimes throwing stones or bottles in front of refugee hostels, and a new arson attack on a refugee hostel every other day (most of them, until now, having been empty at the time of the crime, with no refugees being hurt yet, but I fear that's just a matter of time). German government seems to very, very slowly notice that this comes as a result of a development both their domestic and foreign policies over the last 25 years have some responsibility for.

  • if Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws.

    Does "do business" mean sell advertising or does it mean allowing citizens of Germany to access it's pages. I can see how Germany could legally control allowing foreign companies from doing business in Germany (selling advertising in this case), but I don't see how Germany could prevent its citizens from accessing the whole internet (Facebook in this case), unless it wants to try to be like China or North Korea. I can see trying to restrict the monetary flow in or out of a country, but trying to restrict th

  • Lets all start making posts denying the existence of Germany. Is that also against German law?
    • by pepty ( 1976012 )
      Depending on when you claim the non-existence of Germany to have begun, you may also be denying the holocaust by extension. To be safe, say Germany ceased to exist last wednesday.
  • by Raisey-raison ( 850922 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:02PM (#50417181)
    This is what happens when extraterritoriality expands unchecked. If you are not a citizen of Germany, you did not consent to be governed by the German government. Their laws should not apply to you. If they want to rule you they should give you citizenship along with all the rights of a German citizen and have you consent to that arrangement.

    Of course the USA is no different. In 2009, Gary Kaplan, the boss of London-based gambling company BetOnSports, fell foul of a US law that bans Americans from placing bets online even on websites outside the US. He was jailed for four years. In 2006, three British former NatWest bankers were extradited to the US to face fraud charges, in a case that frieked out the British business community. At the time, the bankers said their crimes had taken place in the UK and the victim was a UK bank hence they wanted to be tried in Britain.

    Of course to some degree you need jurisdiction preventing piracy at sea and so international treaties are needed in this case that allow countries to consent to having their citizens tried in another country.

    Here, perhaps Facebook could block content using IP addresses, but in the case of the EU 'Right to be forgotten', the European Commission wants Google's search results censored throughout the world. That is absurd! And claiming that "It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does" is a legitimate legal argument for limiting free speech means that for all practical purposes the first amendment is gutted. China could ban the Wikipedia page on Taiwan and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent mass killings by the Chinese army. Christian sites could be banned by Islamic regimes. Anything to do with psychology or science that offends any regime would be censored. We would be back in the dark ages.

    I think there is another point. Some rights are inalienable - meaning they are incapable of being alienated and surrendered. Free speech is one of those rights. The fact that the EU fails to recognize this fact, does not change it. Indeed this concept was hinted at during shortly after founding of the UN when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was unanimously agreed. The preamble states:

    Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
    • What would happen if Facebook claimed that they existed only in the USA, and therefore were only subject to American law? The users are contacting Facebook servers and asking for stuff, so long as there are no Facebook servers in Germany they could claim that.
  • by KeithJM ( 1024071 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:04PM (#50417195) Homepage
    Think of Germany's situation after WWII. They had a bunch of war criminals and could prosecute and punish them. Those were the people running camps, the soldiers guarding camps, anyone who explicitly knew what was happening and helped it happen.
    But every single person in the country knew the Nazis had been rounding up jews and killing anyone who helped hide them. Many had to realize that millions of jews had disappeared and there weren't anywhere near enough soldiers left in country to guard and take care of them. Many knew that some jews were being used as slave labor. So basically, an unknown but large percentage of the country didn't outright commit war crimes but did collaborate with the Nazis to some degree.

    You can't prosecute 25% of your country. So they just said "We aren't going to pretend this didn't happen. it's illegal to deny it happened. But we aren't going to let it happen again either -- it's illegal to try and spread racial hate through speech." It was a compromise to prevent having to throw 20% of the country in jail. It's not crazy, it's just very foreign to American concepts.
    • Nothing unique about Germany's history.Holocaust-like things happened in many other places too, and Lebensraum doctrine was part of German culture long before Hitler and still will be long time after. They just pretend it isn't, so that possible victims won't bug them too much before they're ready to make their move, and childish ultra-nationalists give them away. That's why they outlaw their speech.
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:32PM (#50417361) Homepage
    OK, if you have a law, than how about you take legal action against the people saying things you don't like then, Maas. Why should other people in other countries do your job for you?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wow. That's pretty ignorant.

      It's also a crime in Germany to spread hate speech. Facebook is therefore breaking the law. I would say Maas' response is quite measured. Instead of taking Facebook to court, he asked to reach an agreement that could benefit both parties. Presumably so he can do what you suggest, namely, go after the people who are posting this illegal racist crap.

      Just because Germany has different rules than the US does not mean that those rules are wrong. Try expanding your world-view a tiny bi

  • Or better yet, have them click some sort of agreement where they agree they're not german. Just some sort of legal mechanism to move the jurisdiction of the site even more clearly out of their legal authority.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2015 @05:36PM (#50417667)

    As a native German, I have to say that 99% of the responses I read here are so WAY OFF reality, I'm absolutely stunned.

    Just a few short comments for those of you who care to be educated:
    - Maas politely invited Facebook to have a discussion on that topic. Nothing more, no laws or courts involved.
    - Mentioning Nazi topics is not at all prohibited in Germany. On the contrary, the topic is extensively discussed in history school books, every-night TV documentations, exhibitions, public memorials in every city and town (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein), and our schoolchildrens' education on the topic is probably the most extensive in the world. A visit to a former concentration camp is mandatory for everyone in high school.
    - The book "Mein Kampf" is not at all prohibited and may be sold if it includes academic historians' comments.
    - What _is_ prohibited is showing certain Nazi symbols (e.g. swastika) or using Nazi expressions (e.g. "Sieg Heil!" or "Mit Deutschem Gruss!") in a supportive context. This very sentence, for example, is perfectly legal in Germany, because my context is explanatory, not supportive.
    - Of course there is protection of free speech in Germany. And that freedom ends exactly where freedom of others starts. What is prohibited is public speech that aims at depriving minorities (religious, ethnical, etc.) from constitutional rights, or calls for criminal acts. If can't personally find this to infringe on my freedom.

    • by hduff ( 570443 )

      - Of course there is protection of free speech in Germany. And that freedom ends exactly where freedom of others starts. What is prohibited is public speech that aims at depriving minorities (religious, ethnical, etc.) from constitutional rights, or calls for criminal acts. If can't personally find this to infringe on my freedom.

      I find it useful to allow people to speak such offensive things. This makes it easier to identify the assholes.

  • If I were in his shoes, I'd do the math and figure out that deleting any Nazi FB pages and telling them to fuck off was good for business. I would ALSO tell the german government to go fuck themselves, since the freedom of speech is not negotiable.

    -jcr

  • We'll see how this works out

  • Can they be more specific about what they want banned? Do they not want people to be able to see the info on facebook within Germany? Or do they not want people to be able to post it on facebook from within Germany? or something else?
    Without knowing exactly what they are asking for we can't properly tell them how what they are asking for is impossible.
  • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @08:51PM (#50418417)

    Hey, Germany, does denial of the Armenian holocaust count?

    If so then WTF is anyone considering Turkey for EU membership?

    If not then WTF double standards anyone?

  • by Crass Spektakel ( 4597 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:20PM (#50418845) Homepage

    This is not about "free oppinion" but about "redefining the past to prepare future crimes".

    In germany you are free to promote national socialism as long as you do not deny its past flaws. This way a fascist has a harder time to prepare future crimes.

    In the US you are free to promote pedophelia as long as you do not deny its past flaws. This way a pedophile has a harder time to prepare future crimes.

    There is also the Markus Nessler parable:
    One day some stranger starts following you while shouting "you stole my money, my jacket and my shoes!"
    He continues to do so for some days then starts shouting "someone help me to get back my money, my jacket and my shoes!"
    A couple of days later people start demanding from you to give back that mans money, jacket and shoes.
    And some days later the man with help from some people takes away your money, your jacket and your shoes by force.
    And everyone will say "you had it coming, he asked you for days to give back his money, his jacket and his shoes".

    And that is the difference between "free speech" and "redefining the past to prepare future crimes". And thats the reason why you can shut up people by court order. Even in the US.

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