Germany’s new censorship law, which has introduced state censorship on social media platforms, came into effect on October 1, 2017. The new law requires social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to censor their users on behalf of the German state. Social media companies are obliged to delete or block any online “criminal offenses” such as libel, slander, defamation or incitement, within 24 hours of receipt of a user complaint — regardless of whether the content is accurate or not. Social media companies are permitted seven days for more complicated cases. If they fail to do so, the German government can fine them up to 50 million euros for failing to comply with the law.
The new censorship law, however, was not fully enforced until January 1, 2018, in order to give the social media platforms time to prepare for their new role as the privatized thought police of the German state. Social media platforms now have the power to shape the form of current political and cultural discourse by deciding who will speak and what they will say.
On January 1, 2018, however, the law was immediately enforced. Twitter began by suspending the account of the deputy leader of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), Beatrix von Storch, for 12 hours, after she tweeted the following in response to a New Year’s greeting issued in Arabic by the Cologne Police: