Following a deadly attack in the city of Halle last week, German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht has called for tougher rules on online hate speech and death threats.
The self-confessed perpetrator of the Halle attack, in which two people were killed, has reportedly said he was driven by anti-Semitic and far-right beliefs.
“We have to talk about the breeding ground in which extreme-right violence grows. Words become deeds,” Lambrecht told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in an interview published Sunday.
“We’re also seeing increasing brutalization, hatred and agitation on the internet. Here it must be very clear that the internet is not a legal vacuum,” said Lambrecht, a member of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Angela Merkel’s government.
Online platforms should be legally obliged to report all posts inciting racial hatred and murder to the authorities, without waiting for users to flag them, Lambrecht said.
“I believe it is in the interest of the platforms to take action themselves,” she said.
Lambrecht said she also wants tougher penalties for online insults that break the law.
“An insult on the internet must be evaluated differently from an insult on an interpersonal level. It reaches a much larger audience and can be accessed worldwide,” she said.
Under German law, illegal insults currently carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison, or two years if the insult is accompanied by a violent offense, Welt am Sonntag said. Lambrecht did not say what new sentence she would favor.