In a stunning tour de force, a “day of action against hate speech on the Net” organized by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) resulted in over 100 raids, targeting individuals being accused of hate speech.
As reported by Tagesspiegel, the raids, conducted in 13 German states on March 22 and which included house searches and interrogations, targeted individuals suspected of disseminating hate speech against politicians and posting misinformation on social media platforms, in the run-up to the Bundestag elections on September 26th 2021.
The selection of suspects was based on an analysis of 600 statements that were examined for possible criminal content.
BKA President Holger Münch issued a clear warning to suspects:
Freedom of expression reaches its limits as soon as it comes to defamation, insults and threats. The day of action is meant to convey a clear sign: Anyone who posts messages containing hate must expect the police at their door afterwards.
The alleged instances of hate speech fall into two categories. One category involves insults of well-known members of the Bundestag. Reportedly, two-thirds of the politicians targeted via such speech were female. The other category pursued by the BKA involves ‘hate posts’ containing misleading information, as well as publicly documented false quotes, “which appear suitable for defamation and discrediting of the persons concerned,” according to Münch.
Referring to the “day of action,” Torsten Kunze, attorney general of Hessen, explained that it “illustrates the extent to which office holders and elected officials are insulted, defamed and threatened on the Internet.” The goal, he said, must be to prevent “reaching a level that threatens democracy when those affected retreat from public life.” The Frankfurt General Prosecutor’s Office, which is also home to the Central Office for Combating Internet Crime, therefore “consistently prosecutes” these crimes, according to Kunze.
This year’s “day of action” was not the first of its kind. Similar “days of action” targeting hate-speech offenders had previously been organized in November 2021, during which cell phones, computers, and tablets of suspects were seized.
In recent years, instances of so-called ‘hate crime’ have become more prevalent in Germany. In 2021, the number of online hate crimes that were recorded increased by 41% compared to the previous year, according to the Ministry of Justice.