Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz punches the Nazi

I remember learning a long time ago that in places like Germany, places that had recently been ravaged, nearly totally destroyed, with much death and misery, by Nazis and other fascists, it was illegal to do things like display a swastika. This is the kind of thing that makes many Americans throw a conniption.

“You are destroying freedom! I would give my life to protect the free speech of a Nazi”

Well, no, you wouldn’t. Don’t even say that.

And now fascism is starting to rise in America, and make no mistake that the two prongs of fascism are emerging, a fascist would-be dictator and friends, and a two digit percentage of the populous that want it.

Part of the rise of fascism in America comes from social networking. Social networks have become the easy place to advance the rhetoric, confused the opposition, create a movement, nurture the hate, and move a society in this direction. This is now speculation. It is what is currently happening.

Facebook and Twitter and similar venues are like abandoned homes turned into crack houses. I used to live across from one. The neighbors, in coordination with the police and city officials, shut it down using a standard procedure used across the US in many cities. Every time something happens at that house, from littering to loud noise to somebody passed out on the lawn, call 911. Don’t use your own address, only give the address of the house in question. That way the 911 calls all get logged to that address. There is generally a city ordinance that says that if a house has above a certain number or rate of 911 calls, the city or county can condemn the house. The owner has some options at that point, but since the owner is probably a slum lord properly company in Boca Raton, they won’t even know about it. So, the city or county takes the house, cleans it out, and either tears it down and sells the property to a developer, or auctions it off so a developer buy it, fix it up, and sell it.

Facebook is an example of a new sort of entity we have in society, but that serves the function of older forms such as homes or public spaces. If a social network like Facebook gets too many 911 calles (“911, what’s your emergency?” “A foreign dictator and posse of oligarchs, in coordination with a pretender to the US presidency, is trying to destroy civilization?” “OK, please give us the address so we can dispatch a car…”) and the owners of that network refuse to do anything about it, perhaps the social network should be taken down.

Think about a mall’s food court. Facebook is a little like a food court, in that it is a social venue. Imagine a food court where someone was killed about twice a year, someone was raped about once every two weeks, and someone was mugged a few times a day. (Not all the same person!) The pertinent governmental body would shut that place down. When my local school district (before our recent move) became a place where the suicide rate among mainly LGBT students was extraordinarily high, the CDC came in to shut the school district down, if nothing was done. Things were done.

Crack houses, food courts, school systems. This is how we do it in our society. But because of their newness, and possibly because of their tremendous hubris, places like Facebook are so far immune from such actions.

Until now. Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz is the law that says that the spread of fascist propaganda shall be illegal, in Germany, on social media sites. Fines can run up to $60 million dollars.

The government will identify hate speech, inform the network that it must be taken down, then the network has 24 hours to do so. The hate speech will be spotted by anyone who cares to look, who can then fill out a form of some kind. That starts the process.

I know a lot of you will immediately say that this can’t be done, that it should not be done, or that it won’t work because it will be gamed. I disagree. It should be done. It can be gamed, but that can be adapted to. And it is necessary.

Or, if I’m wrong about that, if the people can not be protected against this nefarious aspect of social networking sites, then social networking sites have to cease to exist. We’ll find some other way to socialize. Go to the food court. Sit on a neighbor’s front stoep. Maybe even pay attention to the people in your house. I think they’re around here somewhere ….

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46 thoughts on “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz punches the Nazi

  1. Gotta disagree on the “take it down” conclusion.
    There is no doubt that Facebook (and Twitter) got played during the last election, and I have no doubt their growth and scale got beyond what they could manage in the Russian ad debacles.

    I do fault them for the immense lack of transparency in disclosing the sources of their ads as well as just exactly what their social tree algorithms are looking for. I will admit they brought some of this about due to actions that seem to have been put in place simply to amplify the amount of faceless interaction — the infamous ‘like’ button leading the pack. That removed the need for actual commenting. (I also strongly disagree with anyone who would suggest that the ability for people to be anonymous should be removed: far too many at-risk people would have a stage for their issues removed with that step.)

    But the notion that FB is full of rants and hatred from Nazis and other Trump supporters can’t be supported. It is probably there, and any amount is too much, but it is not in front of the vast majority of people. There is no doubt that FB (and Twitter) should crack down on this and provide proof (more transparency) of such. I think — and hope — that the folks behind them realize they have to do something before a poorly-implemented set of government rules is cobbled together.

    And, as a wrap up, remember that Pai, the dishonest little troll responsible for cutting down Net Neutrality claiming he wanted a “free and open Internet” is also on record as saying that the government should step in on FB and Twitter for exactly the opposite reason you give: he thinks they have been “unfair to conservative voices” in the small steps they have taken in combating racists, Nazis, and others.

    1. This law is mostly being used against people who complain about people who are anti-Jew.

      Wait – you think this law is targeting people who file complaints about anti-Semitic posts?

    2. Yes, people who are preaching hatred, intolerance, and telling lies. Reporting hate speech against one group (Muslims) does not equal actions opposed to a second (the Jewish community).

      I don’t like the law, but it’s (asserted) reason for existence is to clamp down on speech that incites hatred and violence.

      You don’t get to decry hatred against your preferred set and then whine when hatred against someone you dislike gets flagged too.

    3. Muslim migrants are the source of so much Jew hatred in Europe. They are why the synagogues and Jewish schools need so much security, and why the Jews are looking to leave. People who mention such things find themselves being arrested for blasphemy or hate speech.

    4. “They hate Jews”

      Argument by overreaching and unsupported generalization. Always sure to end intelligent conversation.

  2. It is sad to see so much of the left abandoning free speech. And especially dangerous because free speech isn’t safe in the hands of the right.

  3. “Germany is set to start enforcing a law that demands social media sites move quickly to remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material.” – from your link.

    A law to prevent “social networking” or “social media” sites from being turned into social disintegration and societal destruction vectors? Sounds good to me.

    1. And right off the bat twitter blocks a German satire magazine account. I fear Germany will create a backlash that will feed the thugs. This law is more dangerous than the hate speech and harder to deal with.

  4. But it is.

    “The government will identify hate speech, inform the network that it must be taken down, then the network has 24 hours to do so. The hate speech will be spotted by anyone who cares to look, who can then fill out a form of some kind. That starts the process.”

    In America there is no legal exception to free speech called “hate speech” and under the constitution there cannot be. I am free to hate anything I want and am free to speak of that hate any way that I choose. And even publish it by whatever means. If I choose poorly it reflects badly on me but it cannot be illegal.

    Don’t get me wrong I hate all the social media. If I owned stock in any of it I would donate it to charity and go take a bath. I have never issued a single tweet in my life and don’t intend to. But the fact is it is just publishing and the government can no more control what they publish than they can control what books get published.

    1. I am free to hate anything I want and am free to speak of that hate any way that I choose.

      However, you are not free to be allowed to use any stage you wish to spread that speech. FB, twitter, and others are private. If they decide that your comments violate their policies you don’t get to speak there.

    2. Dean,

      What you say is true but misses the point. If the government defines the hate speech and demands that it be taken down then then it is not twitter that has decided that I can’t use the platform. It is the government.

      I encourage twitter to regulate tweets all they want. I suspect that they will just piss off their users. But what is the worst that could happen? They go bankrupt? A net positive.

    3. If the government defines the hate speech and demands that it be taken down then then it is not twitter that has decided that I can’t use the platform. It is the government.

      Yours and mine are classic examples of misunderstandings. The comment I responded too I took as independent of your others — essentially as saying people could say whatever where-ever and whenever. I did that because in other spots you specifically referred to the law and its issues.

      You took my comment as supporting government interference — I do not. See my earlier post.

    4. Dean,

      I’m glad we agree. I never intended to imply that any publishing platform was required to publish my words. Professor Laden is free to delete all my posts. I in fact prefer forums that impose some sort of order.

      But:

      ” The government will identify hate speech, inform the network that it must be taken down, then the network has 24 hours to do so. The hate speech will be spotted by anyone who cares to look, who can then fill out a form of some kind. That starts the process. ”

      Is the subject at hand and it is clearly government censorship.

  5. I like the free statement of any sort, don’t remove the ‘hate speech’ (will have to close down all churches)…but take names!!! Now if things start to get frisky the police know where to start for blame and cause!!

  6. Germany has, I would say, a pretty good handle on the destructive power of fascism, Nazism, and authoritarianism, and the fact that theGermans are going to try to force “social” forums to be intolerant of hate speech, fake news, and illegal material is very significant. Nazism built off the very real antisemitic values of the Christian churches. These antisemitic Christian church values provided a unifying real world enemy for the church to target, but it did so at the expense of the Church’s rational and spiritual sanity. How crazy. Image a religious cult that facilitates the persecution, torture, and murder of the very ethnic group from which its deified savior, the Prince of Peace and Love, was born into! How crazy is that? And imagine people who cannot see, or who are too afraid to let themselves see the craziness in this!

    I think that the sciences needs to weigh in here and help show just how irrational and destructive this racial and ethnic fear and prejudice is; that it is a disease. That espousing the persecution of others is a sign of seriously flawed cognition. I think too that we need some way to put a higher value on truth ( defined as congruence with reality) than we do today. Fake news and the inability to evaluate it is a seed crystal of societal destruction. It is a weapon that dissolves social cohesion necessary for tribe humanity to thrive.

    An internet that allows and even facilitates crazy anti-social values such as Nazism, fascism, authoritarianism, extremism of all sorts, that peddles lies and distortions, that is trafficking in dangerous,toxic, destructive, and illegal objects and memes, needs some sort of reigning in or it will result in increasing societal decay.

    Remember when Nazism was pretty near universally reviled? The fact that it is gathering up strength and acceptance should be cause for concern among the sane. Constitutions are rules for conduct. The concept of “Free Speech” does not allow for a psychotic to step into your yard with a megaphone and scream crazed epithets at you day and night. You cannot yell “Fire” in a packed crowd as a joke. “Free Speech” does not allow you to sell home made drugs or firearms to children . You cannot continually tell lies about your neighbors without any expectation of retribution. “Free Speech” does not allow you to enslave others. “Free Speech”, in my opinion, requires a public insightful enough and intelligent enough to wield it sanely. Hate speech is not insightful or sane, and it doesn’t stand up under the scientific microscope as anything but a disease, a disorder. It needs to be vanquished, not fostered.

    1. An internet that allows and even facilitates crazy anti-social values such as Nazism, fascism, authoritarianism, extremism of all sorts, that peddles lies and distortions, that is trafficking in dangerous,toxic, destructive, and illegal objects and memes, needs some sort of reigning in or it will result in increasing societal decay.

      Replace “Internet” with “Publishing industry” (as an example) and that statement doesn’t sound as reasonable.

      Punish the actions, not the venue.

    2. Grrr. Replace

      Punish the actions, not the venue.

      with

      Deal with the actions and actors, don’t punish the venue

      I wish there were an editing function here.

      Yup. Massively yup.

  7. I imagine that the (relatively) free citizens of the Weimar Republic included many who valued free speech as much as anyone in the U. S. does. I wonder how many of them changed their minds after Hitler was elected to a legitimate, powerful office and then proceeded to turn Germany into a complete dictatorship and plunged the world into World War 2?

    That was a real dilemma then to which I don’t think there weren’t any absolute answers. And so to the present day …

    1. The Weimar Republic had hate speech laws very much like modern Germany. They even prosecuted some Nazis. It didn’t work.

  8. Re: “… Hitler was not elected.”

    Yes, he was appointed because he represented the largest party at the time, although it hadn’t a majority nor a coalition that could form a majority that could elect a chancellor. I’m so used to a basically 2-party system that I overlooked that.

    Re: “The Weimar Republic had hate speech laws very much like modern Germany. They even prosecuted some Nazis. It didn’t work.”

    That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have worked/can’t work at other times (or in other places). Or are you saying that it couldn’t/can’t work period?

    In my view, the basic social collision still remains: free speech vs resisting fomenters of hatred and scapegoating.

  9. Dean: “Punish the actions, not the venue.”

    Here is the problem with your analysis. The publishing industry is subject to regulation, including self regulation and through torte. You actually can’t do just whatever you want. You can do a lot, but not just anything.

    There are means and mechanisms for addressing these thing in the publishing industry, including and especially the role of attribution, and of course, slander and libel law, but mostly, probably, the granularity of the industry. No matter what someone publishes, the content is not pushed into everyone’s eyes and ears. In social media, anything can be pushed in to everyone’ s eyes and ears.

    The point is, if social network was similar to the publishing industry in how it works, how it is self regulated, and how actions on it are subject to criminal and civil law, we wouldn’t have this problem. What has happened instead, and I’m pretty sure I made this point clearly in the post, is that the social networking industry has virtually zero control or responsibility for anything in it.

    Imagine that someone in the publishing industry one day wakes up and decides that all the libraries (now called “media centers”) of all the grade schools in the country would contain mostly porn. Despite the great love for free speech that many seem to have without actually understanding what it is, that can not and should not happen. But if libraries across the world, of all type, were Facebook, it could happen and the sort of thoughtless defense of what is falsely understood to be free speech would allow it, even encourage it.

    Are you prepared to die in defense of the conversion of all the elementary school libraries to porn repositories? I ask because you are saying that!

    1. The same regulations that apply to publishing apply to tweets. If I libel someone I can be sued.

      You have not addressed the fundamental problem that there is no definition of hate speech that would survive constitutional review. If I posted a drawing of Muhammad would you delete it? If so that is your right. But if the government insists on forcing you to delete the post then that is a problem. I am a Muhammad drawer. I support Charlie Hebdo. I support the right to burn flags of any nationality. These things cannot survive “hate speech” laws. In the hands of conservatives these things will become nasty beyond your imagination.

      You are experiencing a moral panic. It is every bit as dangerous as the moral panic that Bush had about terrorism. Stop acting like a conservative and get the fuck over it before you do real harm.

    2. Strawman argument. Yes, many people tend to not acknowledge the amount of censorship that already exists. The existence of this censorship doesn’t mean you should now engage in viewpoint censorship.

    3. including self regulation

      Hence my comments that they need to live up to the standards they claim to have, as well as increase transparency in how their algorithms work, and begin policing themselves more strongly. I still think they will, especially as calls for government intervention increase — and they’ve seen repeatedly that neither side of the political spectrum has any clue about basic internet operation, and certainly not any clue about the basic concepts of the machine learning/modeling/prediction models these companies use. Public responsibility may not be the primary driver of decisions, but preservation of revenue certainly is.

      I will also point out that you can find racism, bigotry, dishonesty, a record of denial of facts, and more, equal to what you find on the social networks being pushed out on a regular basis in crap like Reason, Fox News, American Thinker, the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, the Von Mises Institute, American Enterprise Institute, pretty much any online news source that uses the word “Patriot” in its title, articles from and more. How would those pollution sites be dealt with?

      “Imagine that someone in the publishing industry one day wakes up and decides that all the libraries (now called “media centers”) of all the grade schools in the country would contain mostly porn.”

      Not a good comparison — grade school libraries are not publicly traded companies.

    4. Dean,

      Yeah, good point. It would be hard to find a more dishonest source of fake news than Fox News. They have far more impact than some anonymous source on twitter. They have far more moral responsibility.

      But you do not breach freedom of speech or press. That would be far worse.

      God, Liberals today. Moral panics drive them to the same excesses as conservatives.

    5. But you do not breach freedom of speech or press. That would be far worse.

      Again, refer to my earlier comments.

      But when I see comments like the one today from twitter (“rationale” for not banning world leaders) I just have to wonder how people who are so clueless about what they say got to the top of the corporate ladder.

  10. I suspect ‘algorithms’ is just an excuse to cover up what they do. More likely employees are just fiddling with some weights to knock out things occasionally. Other ties they are doing it for money. The genuine “it’s in the algorithm” is more occasional like that Microsoft bot that was accidentally racist.

    1. I was thinking of Google searches, not Facebook

      Google searches are based on the Page rank (named after Larry Page, although Sergey Brin worked on it and co-authored at least one paper on it) algorithm. It’s one of the systems that’s understood.

  11. Re: dean — “you can find racism, bigotry, dishonesty, a record of denial of facts, and more, equal to what you find on the social networks being pushed out on a regular basis in crap like Reason, Fox News, American Thinker, the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, the Von Mises Institute, American Enterprise Institute, pretty much any online news source that uses the word “Patriot” in its title, articles from and more. ”

    It seems likely to me that a significant amount of the crap on “social networks” is just being parroted from Faux News et al. inasmuch as Fox is (or was?), “America’s most watched news network.”

    This is just a comment/reaction that occurred to me, not in any way meant as a criticism of the post from which the quotation was taken.

    1. It seems likely to me that a significant amount of the crap on “social networks” is just being parroted from Faux News et al. inasmuch as Fox is (or was?), “America’s most watched news network.”

      That could well be. I have to say that I’m on Facebook, keep in touch with relatives, friends from grad school, a couple old buddies from grad school who now teach in different locations, and friends from cycling groups I’ve ridden with — probably fewer than 60 people total. All of them are scattered around the U.S. and Europe. I haven’t had my feed littered with the crap we’re talking about here, but I do try to keep things buttoned pretty tight. (The same with Twitter: I follow about 5 comedians and that’s it.)

      I suspect ‘algorithms’ is just an excuse to cover up what they do. More likely employees are just fiddling with some weights to knock out things occasionally. Other ties they are doing it for money.

      No. There is no way they could manage the social graphs of over a billion users (active or not) without some serious AI and learning systems running. The volume of data is just too large. We know a little bit: the posts that catch FB’s algorithms “attention” have large numbers of likes (especially if the likes come quickly), are related to relevant issues, come from pages where the user has completely filled out his/her profile, and more. The details of how the models are trained and tuned aren’t generally known (or, if they are, I don’t know where).

      The genuine “it’s in the algorithm” is more occasional like that Microsoft bot that was accidentally racist.

      Accidental is generous. Tay (its name) was designed to “learn” from conversation and interaction with the public. It was “taught” to be racist by a tide of racist (and generally bigoted) comments from Twitter users. It’s a simplification, but essentially Tay would repeat anything people asked it to, and the repetition and constant input did the training.

    1. Paul Weston was arrested in London for a racially aggravated crime.

      Sort of but not exactly. He had been quoting a passage from one of Churchill’s books. That wasn’t the primary reason for the arrest. There were complaints to the police that he was causing a nuisance, the police responded, and he was detained after he failed to comply with a request by police to move on under the powers of a dispersal order made against him. That was the primary reason for the arrest — the racism bit was secondary. From the police report (bolding is mine):

      “A 50-year-old man from Dorset was arrested outside Winchester Guildhall at approximately 2.30pm on Saturday April 26 after he failed to comply with a section 27 dispersal order.”
      “The dispersal order was issued following complaints from members of the public about the man’s behaviour.”
      “He was further arrested on suspicion of religious/racial harassment. He has been bailed pending further inquiries to report back to police on May 24.”

      Weston is an amazingly virulent racist and bigot — too extreme even for UKIP, and they’re despicable people themselves.

    2. No, it wasn’t secondary. That’s what I assumed at first. The racial aggravated crime is the primary. Dislike of the speech, which was again quoting Churchill, led to a fig leaf alternative charge. There was nothing much that required dispersal.

  12. It is interesting how authoritarians sometimes couch their arguments in terms of attacking or supporting some supposed authority figure, typically a figurehead often with little or no expertise in a relevant field. Also, their continual underlying appeal to and interest in punishment. Interesting too how Nazis and racists like to hide behind the skirts of free speech as a defense of behavior that quite clearly and frequently amounts to disturbance of the peace and, sometimes, terrorism.

    Farm trolls and people of immature character have so populated discussion boards as to have made many of them unreadable, unpleasant, irrational, and in-congruent with reality. Such people have turned what might have been an oasis of intellect and information instead into uncivil testosterone pits reminiscent of a Devonian sea bottom.

    Just as using your free speech rights to promise or threaten to murder someone will not go unchallenged or un-prosecuted, using ones free speech rights to support tropes that amount to the promise or threat of genocide will not go unchallenged or ignored, nor should they.

    Should Nazi nationalist disease vectors be left unchallenged? Well, only if you are in favor of non-nonsensical genocidal wars and atrocities and the weakening or death of civil society. Or if you are personally such a patchwork of narcissism and recessive genes that everybody not your twin is a threat to your biological existence. Or if you are a mental defective more stuck on the adolescent fear of nanny government intruding into your sacrosanct room full of pathologies than you are aware of the interconnectedness and interdependence of humans, society and physical reality.

    Or in other words, yes, Nazi and nationalist disease vectors should be dealt with and dealt with seriously and severely.

    Have a nice day.

  13. No, it wasn’t secondary. That’s what I assumed at first. The racial aggravated crime is the primary.

    Contrary to what the police said. Got it.

    UKIP was s collection of extreme racists.

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