Topic 7: Can human dignity survive the internet?

Topic 7: Can human dignity survive the internet?

Date - 21/09/2019
14:00 - 16:00



  • Janelle
  • Niels
  • Dittmar Nerger


70 years ago, a major leap of civilisation took place: Germany’s parliament adopted the Basic Law and enshrined in its first Article that human dignity shall be inviolable. In today’s poorly regulated world of online media, Article 1 is coming under constant threat. This is especially so in relation to the spread of hate speech, a clear violation of the Article when it comes to the offline world.

To combat this, the German parliament has passed a controversial law[1] making social media giants legally liable for hate speech that appears on their platforms. Is this essentially giving more powers of censorship to tech companies? Who should be responsible for keeping illegal content off the web? Does this set a precedent vulnerable to misappropriation by governments around the world that already impose limitations on press freedom?

Despite the legal intent of the new law, over- and under-censorship remains problematic. One approach that has emerged to address this is the Dangerous Speech project. This project advocates for a better-informed digital citizenry rather than legal censorship. What are the principles underpinning this approach and could it be more effective than legal censorship?

A&S Bücherland have kindly agreed to host this meetup. Attendees are encouraged to make a 5€ contribution to assist with the venue’s running costs. Additionally, the venue has tea and coffee facilities and a selection of drinks are also available for us to purchase.


Background reading:

1. “Germany: Flawed Social Media Law” (8mins):

2. The ‘Dangerous Speech’ project FAQs (13 mins):


[1] The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law, informally known as the ‘Facebook Law’

Photo credit: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


Bookings are closed for this event.


  1. Dittmar Nerger
    September 4, 2019

    Dear Janelle,
    I could not find how to upload the pdf documents of the original text documents. Therefore I just submit the links, easy to download and read.
    The Network Enforcement Act, original pdf documents published at the website of the Ministry of Justice of the German Federal Republic, only 4 pages in German, 6 pages in English:
    a. German version:;jsessionid=76637D6D786C92B663818B8308300685.2_cid334?__blob=publicationFile&v=2
    b. English version:;jsessionid=76637D6D786C92B663818B8308300685.2_cid334?__blob=publicationFile&v=2
    and the pertaining Regulatory Fining Guidelines, in German and in English:
    c. in German:;jsessionid=76637D6D786C92B663818B8308300685.2_cid334?__blob=publicationFile&v=3
    d. in English:;jsessionid=76637D6D786C92B663818B8308300685.2_cid334?__blob=publicationFile&v=2.
    Kind regards, Dittmar

  2. Thanks, Didi! This will be a handy reference point for us to have 🙂

  3. Dittmar Nerger
    September 5, 2019

    Dear Janelle and all,
    FYI, there is a brief summary of the new act (law) on the website of the Ministry of Justice,
    Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks (Network Enforcement Act, NetzDG) – Basic Information

    The new law aims to fight hate crime, criminally punishable fake news and other unlawful content on social networks more effectively. This includes insult, malicious gossip, defamation, public incitement to crime, incitement to hatred, disseminating portrayals of violence and threatening the commission of a felony.

    I. Effective complaints management

    The new law defines binding standards for effective and transparent complaints management. The operators of social networks will be subject to the following obligations:

    They must offer users an easily recognisable, directly accessible and permanently available procedure for reporting criminally punishable content.

    They must immediately take notice of content reported to them by users and examine whether that content might violate criminal law.

    They must take down or block access to manifestly unlawful content within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

    Other criminal content must generally be taken down or blocked within 7 days of receiving a complaint. Alternatively, social networks may refer the content concerned to a “recognised institution of regulated self-governance” on the understanding that they will accept the decision of that institution. The institution must then also make its decision on whether the content is unlawful within 7 days.

    They must inform users of all decisions taken in response to their complaints and provide justification.

    II. Reporting obligation

    The operators of social networks are obliged to submit biannual reports on their handling of complaints about criminally punishable content. These reports must contain information, for example, on the volume of complaints and the decision-making practices of the network, as well as about the teams responsible for processing reported content. They must be made available to everybody on the Internet.

    III. Fines

    Social networks that fail to set up a complaints management system or do not set one up properly – especially where this means that they do not delete criminal content in full, on time or at all – are committing a regulatory offence. This is punishable with a fine of up to 5 million euros against the person responsible for the complaints management system. The fine against the company itself can be up to 50 million euros. A fine can also be imposed if the social network does not comply with its reporting duties in full or at all.

    IV. Person authorised to receive service

    To ensure that the law is enforced more effectively, social networks will be obliged – regardless of where they are based – to name a person in Germany who is authorised to receive service of process in regulatory fine and civil proceedings, and publish details of this person on their website. Social networks must also name a person in Germany authorised to receive information requests from law enforcement authorities. Moreover, networks will have to ensure that they can respond swiftly to these requests. Violations of the duty to name a person authorised to receive service or information requests can also result in a fine.

    V. Right to disclosure

    Anyone whose general personality rights are violated by the criminal offences covered by the new act will, as a rule, be able to demand that the social network concerned disclose details of who committed the offence. Such entitlement to information is founded in existing general principles of civil law. With the new legislation, we are ensuring that these entitlements can actually be asserted. Operators of social networks will be given the power under data protection law to disclose the subscriber information of the infringer to the injured party. In order to do so, however, the social network must have been ordered to disclose this data by a civil court with jurisdiction over the matter (judicial scrutiny reservation).
    The new law will enter into force on 1 October 2017. The complaints procedure must be introduced three months after the act has entered into force.

  4. huh…this bit is interesting: “social networks will be obliged… to name a person in Germany who is authorised to receive service of process in regulatory fine and civil proceedings, and publish details of this person on their website”. I just tried to find this on fb and youtube. With no success. Maybe they are happy to wear the fine.

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