The New York Times has been running an extended crusade for some years now to dispense with freedom of speech. It’s run op-eds arguing that speech is violence, that the First Amendment has been misunderstood… and that we should be more like Germany.
The story starts with this incident
When the police pounded the door before dawn at a home in northwest Germany, a bleary-eyed young man in his boxer shorts answered. The officers asked for his father, who was at work.
They told him that his 51-year-old father was accused of violating laws against online hate speech, insults and misinformation. He had shared an image on Facebook with an inflammatory statement about immigration falsely attributed to a German politician. “Just because someone rapes, robs or is a serious criminal is not a reason for deportation,” the fake remark said.
The police then scoured the home for about 30 minutes, seizing a laptop and tablet as evidence, prosecutors said.
It’s hard to imagine a worse test case for censorship. But the New York Times decided to lead with someone sharing a sarcastic quote on Facebook mocking pro-migrant politicians.
Clearly, the Times would like to see this in America.
Hate speech, extremism, misogyny and misinformation are well-known byproducts of the internet. But the people behind the most toxic online behavior typically avoid any personal major real-world consequences. Most Western democracies like the United States have avoided policing the internet because of free speech rights, leaving a sea of slurs, targeted harassment and tweets telling public figures they’d be better off dead. At most, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter remove a post or suspend their account.
But over the past several years, Germany has forged another path, criminally prosecuting people for online hate speech.
Germany is known for forging another path. That said, most European countries will prosecute some kinds of speech and none have free speech. The police can come to your door in the UK and any number of European countries. Germany does this on a larger scale.
In doing so, they have flipped inside out what, to American ears, it means to protect free speech. The authorities in Germany argue that they are encouraging and defending free speech by providing a space where people can share opinions without fear of being attacked or abused.
This is the same “Censorship is Freedom” argument being used by Google, Facebook and the Left.
What’s really telling are the examples in the article.
And it was that post that eventually led to the raid of that 51-year-old father’s house in northwest Germany. The father, whose name was not shared by authorities because of Germany’s strict privacy laws, is still under investigation in Lower Saxony as police examine the contents of his devices. Even if he did not know the comment attributed to Ms. Bause was fake, he still faces punishment because “the accused bears the risk of spreading a false quote without checking it,” prosecutors said.
So basically penalizing opponents of a leftist politician.
Swen Weiland, a software developer turned internet hate speech investigator, is in charge of unmasking people behind anonymous accounts. He hunts for clues about where a person lives and works, and connections to friends and family. After an unknown Twitter user compared Covid restrictions to the Holocaust, he used an online registry of licensed architects to help identify the culprit as a middle-aged woman.
“I try to find out what they do in their normal life,” Mr. Weiland said. “If I find where they live or their relatives then I can get the real person. The internet does not forget.”
It’s safe to say that woman was not a fan of the Nazis.
Last year, Christian Endt, a journalist in Berlin whose coverage of Covid drew a steady stream of insults online, reached a breaking point. After an anonymous Twitter user had called him “stupid” and mentally ill, he embarked on a mission to see if he could get the person prosecuted.
The person’s account did not include a real name, but it had a photo on the profile page. That allowed Mr. Endt to perform an image search to see where else on the internet the image could be found. It led him to a LinkedIn page of a small-business owner. From there, he found the individual’s company website, phone number and home address.
Mr. Endt compiled his finding in a memo and sent it to the local district attorney. In December, the case landed with the online hate unit in Lower Saxony, where the culprit lived. After reviewing the evidence, they sent the man a fine worth about €1,000.
Again, criticism of government COVID policies.
Last year, Andy Grote, a city senator responsible for public safety and the police in Hamburg, broke the local social distancing rules — which he was in charge of enforcing — by hosting a small election party in a downtown bar.
After Mr. Grote later made remarks admonishing others for hosting parties during the pandemic, a Twitter user wrote: “Du bist so 1 Pimmel” (“You are such a penis”).
Three months later, six police officers raided the house of the man who had posted the insult, looking for his electronic devices. The incident caused an uproar.
None of the incidents profiled involve any kind of Nazi association. This is about the government suppressing its own political opposition under the guise of fighting hate speech. The complaints seem to largely involve politicians, activists and media figures.
It’s not hard to see why the media in this country thinks we should be more like Germany.