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Google is taking legal action against Germany’s expanded hate speech law

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BERLIN, July 27 (Reuters) – Google announced on Tuesday that it was taking legal action against a recently amended version of the German Hate Speech Act, as its provisions violate the privacy of its users.

The Alphabet unit, which operates the YouTube video platform, has filed a lawsuit with the Cologne Administrative Court against a provision that allows user data to be passed on to law enforcement authorities before a criminal offense has clearly been committed.

The call for judicial review comes as Germany prepares for a parliamentary election in September amid concerns that hostile discourse and social media influence could destabilize the country’s normally serene election campaign policy.

“From our point of view, this massive encroachment on the rights of our users is not only in conflict with data protection, but also with the German constitution and European law,” writes Sabine Frank, regional head of politics at YouTube, in a blog post.

In early 2018, Germany passed the law to combat hate speech, known as NetzDG, and made the online social networks YouTube, Facebook (FB.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N) responsible for monitoring and removing toxic content.

The law, which also required social networks to publish regular reports on compliance, was widely criticized as ineffective, and Parliament passed laws in May to tighten and expand its application.

In particular, Google has dealt with a requirement in the extended NetzDG, according to which providers must pass on personal data of people who allegedly share hateful content to law enforcement authorities.

Only when personal data are in the possession of the law enforcement authorities is a decision to initiate criminal proceedings planned, which means that data from innocent people could end up in a crime database without their knowledge, it is said.

“Network providers like YouTube are now obliged to automatically transmit user data to law enforcement authorities en masse and en masse without legal system, without the knowledge of the user and only on suspicion of a criminal offense,” said a Google spokesman.

“This violates fundamental rights, we have therefore decided to have the relevant provisions of the NetzDG reviewed by the competent administrative court in Cologne.”

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Catherine Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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