German interior minister Thomas De Maizière has a simple solution for “hate speech”. He believes that other people should stop it. He believes that someone (else) should do something. In particular, he is very keen that American internet companies should become much more involved in policing, suppressing and punishing what they consider to be “hate speech” in Europe. “Public incitement to hatred… must be removed from the internet” he explained. He believes that action should be taken – as long as the action is not taken by him.
What does public incitement to hatred look like? Well, imagine the hatred behind a suggestion on Twitter that people fleeing war and torture could be dissuaded from coming to Europe by a frontier of pigs’ heads impaled on sticks. Xenophobia mixed with islamophobia, creating a suggestion that attacking refugees through their religion would be an effective way to avoid helping desperate, impoverished men, women and children fleeing war.
The proposal was not made by some anonymous, hateful troll. It was made by Hungarian Member of the European Parliament György Schöpflin. Mr Schöpflin’s political group is the European People’s Party, which is the same one as Thomas De Maizière’s CDU party. The reaction of the CDU and from Minister De Maizière to “xenophobic filth” from this ally has been complete silence. Furthermore, the reaction of the whole EPP Group in the European Parliament has been complete silence – a sad and blatant contradiction to previously strong opposition to discrimination by the EPP, demonstrated most notably by former Commissioner Viviane Reding‘s courageous defence of the Roma.
Mr Schöpflin subsequently “explained” that this had been a “thought experiment”. Oddly enough, the European Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia, which criminalises hate speech, does not have an exception for “thought experiments”.
Maybe Thomas De Maizière doesn’t know what to do about hate speech originating from his ally because he has not asked Facebook yet about what his opinion should be.
Hungarian MEP’s pig heads along border idea leads to Twitter dispute (22.08.2016)
European Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia
Roma deportations by France a disgrace, says EU (14.09.2016)
(Contribution by Joe McNamee, EDRi)