Back to blog

In Germany, online hate speech has real-world consequences

See blog

Readers' comments

The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.


Jeez, this article by The Economist as brought a flood of racist postings to its blog.

One wonders what any of them think about the numerous, well educated, Economist readers who have darker skins than they have.


Germany is becoming a hellhole as far as freedoms are concerned. Merkel invites millions of primitve, lethal culture bearers who kill the natives, and then censors any valid criticism of them. Tourists: Stay away, if you value your safety!


Hate speech has also become part-and-parcel of the Left and is used to develop ad hominem attacks against people who either have a different point-of-view or who present accurate, but 'different' facts. One of the great weaknesses of the Left is its inability or unwillingness to tolerate people expressing Right wing views and ideas and, indeed, trying to have a debate. The most recent expression of this mindset has been in UK universities where student union reps. have taken to 'no platforming' speakers either because they don't have the intellectual ability to debate these speakers or because they have no answer to the logic of their arguments. Similarly, students seek 'safe spaces' from unpleasant facts or differing points-of-view that may overwhelm their sensitive millennial dispositions.

The most pernicious hate speech of all is the use of the word 'denier' to label those who are sceptical of claims that human production of CO2 will lead to catastrophic global warming. Sadly, even columnists for The Guardian have used this hate speech in their articles as indeed have some politicians so it is not just the hoi-polloi of the Left who are guilty. Those who use the term 'denier' seldom have an understanding of the scientific method and, indeed, some of their targets are distinguished atmospheric scientists at the world's leading universities.

Because the term 'denier' is deliberately chosen to link the target to Holocaust deniers - the only other group identified by this globally-recognised term - it clearly IS hate speech. In the climate debate its use must be outlawed and those using it to injure, impugn and vilify others involved in legitimate debate and scientific equiry must meet their fate in the courts.

evidencematters in reply to Euroslayer

What on earth has this to do with an article about hate speech in Germany? The report is quite right ti bring attention to the views of right wing people which lead to violence in Germany.

Trying to whitewash the problem by attacking "leftists" does no credit to you.

Euroslayer in reply to evidencematters

Gosh, the forensic manner in which you address the points made in my comment does you great credit. I'm still going through your point-by-point dissection of the issues raised. No wonder you chose your highly-appropriate screen moniker. Evidence matters. Clearly.


If Poland's and Hungary's governments were more clever, they would sue Germany for breaching the rule of law and freedom of speech to the European Commission, and demand Germany to be banned from voting in the EU before budget discussion. They would claim that Germany's behavior affects them too.
The fact is, right-wingers would probably be right. More than one aspect of German migrant crisis is breaching rule of the law, attack on freedom of speech and affects negatively citizens of other EU countries. But the main issue is: this is the perfect opportunity to stop left-wing politicians meddling with culture.

"But the main issue is: this is the perfect opportunity to stop left-wing politicians meddling with culture."
As distinct from right wing types who never, ever, meddle with culture - like the AfD which is riddled with Neo-Nazis, racists and neo-Fascists.
Nice to see your fantasies at work again - "they would sue Germany for breaching the rule of law and freedom of speech to the European Commission, and demand Germany to be banned from voting in the EU before budget discussion."
On precisely what legal grounds could this action be taken? And how?


Sadly, even that tweet shows inherent faults in German law:
- Legitimate criticism is censored whenever whole blocks of messages or people are banned.
- So-called right wing politicians are punished more readily than left-wing.
- Hate speech is not sufficiently clearly defined. Maybe it is attempt to deflect the blame away from German government: it might always claim that the fault is how social media interpret the law.
- In practice, censor role is forced on a mass of people who are not qualified: employees of social media, low bureaucrats and courts.
- Asymmetric design of the law promotes censorship. Social media can be heavily fined for not deleting messages, but much less likely for over-reacting. The built-in asymmetry encourages censorship just to be on a safe side.


As an engineer who worked in evaluating results from experiments and monitoring, I wouldn't dare to claim that these graphs are correlated. I wouldn't be surprised if the people proposing the correlation don't believe in it by themselves. Otherwise, why to look up the internet speed at all?
A correlation with real life crimes conducted by the refugees is far more likely.

Comte Arnau in reply to guest-aalslsse

To my eye it looks as if the posts *follow* the acts. If we look for cause and effect it would be difficult for a rational person to conclude that the posts are the cause of the acts. Of course, politicians may or may not belong to that class.

And I would send the two Ph.D. students (the authors) back to the textbooks.


Protecting the most unpopular speech provides protection to the free-speech of everyone. Censorship is the norm around the world and in everyone of those countries the justification for repression is officially for the public good. Whether it's in Turkey, China, Russia or Sweden. Censorship is always to protect Government officials and keep criticism away from policy, often corrupt unpopular policy. Germany should know this well considering its history. Over the years I have developed a very negative opinion of Angela Merkel, truly one of the worst leaders in modern times. She is literally turning Germany into Turkey in more than one way.


Poor Germany! Why should they have to deal with the flood of refugees - real and fake - that the criminal aggression of the US and UK is responsible for creating in the first place?


If the Economist wrote this article about Chicago south side it would sound like this. Black community is under siege from mass shootings and violence. A non American would think white Americans are killing blacks. The reality is that the liberal media never reports about black on black crime or El Salvadorians killing each other. But should a cop (white in particular) shoot a black gang member, the liberal media would go nuts. On an average weekend 10-15 blacks are shot dead by other blacks in Chicago. Not to mention guns are banned in the city. Germany did not have such a big crime problem until Merkel took in a million immigrants with no buy in from Germans. No doubt Germans would be furious about this. Posting their feelings online is a good outlet and should be allowed.

Marcus Davidicus in reply to nearmsp

Chicago's gun ban ended with a U.S. Supreme Court case called McDonald v. City of Chicago, 130 S.Ct. 3020 (2010), which concluded that the Second Amendment to the US constitution was incorporated against the states by the 14th Amendment, and that the handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. Since then, under pressure from a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that was prepared to declare that the Illinois ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional, the State passed a "shall issue" concealed carry law (meaning that law-abiding citizens cannot be denied a permit to carry) that applies to Chicago as well. Although Chicago has been actively acting to sabotage efforts by individuals to obtain such permits, they are in fact being issued.
That said, the majority of gun deaths in Chicago are gang related and employ illegally obtained firearms, often used by gangbangers who are too young to possess handguns or other firearms, or by other gang members who are prohibited by law from possessing firearms or ammunition due to criminal convictions.


With posts like the the Economist loses ever more credibility.
This piece assumes readers are stupid enough to fall for this scam. What classifies as assaults on minorities? What classifies for arson? Who was the arsonist? Does it matter to the "scientists"?
Also, what does it mean that the Economist concludes the censoring of opinion in Germany by Mr. Maas' law, which the United Nations protested against openly!, could safe lives?
It only shows the author of this piece, most probably Jeremy Cliffe, the Merkel-loving SJW who reports his Antifa-soaked viewpoints out of Berlin, doesn't question the design of this study AT ALL.
THis is The Economist in 2018, they want you to pay money for. Dumbing down it's readers, promoting ideologies that suppress opposing views in order to reign unchallenged. Does Zanny Minton Beddoes approve?


Last week, police in the Uk arrested nine people who posted comments to Facebook about sex-trafficking rings called "grooming" who target white British girls who are groomed, sexually abused and the trafficked by mostly Muslim men of South Asian descent in Newcastle. Those arrested were accused of posting comments to Facebook that mentioned that most of the gang members were Muslins, and hence those comments were pursued by police.
Police recorded two cases of racially aggravated public order offences among responses to the news articles and have now tracked down nine people responsible for posts, “deemed to be offensive and potentially criminal.” They have been arrested and charged.
So far, none of the gang members have been arrested.


Word has real-world consequences, as the one uttered by Trump shows.
I guess that etymologically 'shit' is related to 'refuse' (as a noun) which in turn is related to 'refugee', therefore, one should properly name 'refugee' as 'freedom seekers'.

Langosta in reply to Houshu

I'm wondering if what Trump REALLY said, was "Why do we want all these people coming here from six-hole country clubs?"
He plays 18-hole courses at his golf properties. Maybe he doesn't want bad golfers from cut-rate overseas clubs coming into the USA. What golfer would?

Marcus Davidicus in reply to Langosta

If in fact Trump said what has been reported, the fact is what he said is true. Europeans (particularly British) love to crow that their murder rate is so much lower than that in the US, yet America's murder rates pales in comparison to places like Haiti and El Salvador. The US murder rate is 4.2 per 100,000, while Haiti is 238 per 100,000. The per capita income in Haiti is a little over $700 per year, and much of the damage from the 2010 earthquake has not been removed or repaired. The government is, and has been, incredibly corrupt. The Dominican Republic actively opposes migration of Haitians because they don't want them either. Although El Salvador's murder rate is half of Haiti's, they still celebrate when a day goes by when no one is killed. The U.S. sends back hundreds of El Salvadorans each year who have been convicted of felonies, mostly violent ones, as those repatriated are members of MS-13, a violent drug gang that control large portions of the country with its thousands of members.

I watched a post by a Nigerian who, although he believes Trump to be a racist, completely agreed that Nigeria is a shit hole country where college graduates cannot get jobs, where the government is corrupt and busily lines its pockets with foreign aid, and so on and so forth. It was quite a rant. Zimbabwe under Mugabe became a shit hole country. Does anyone want to talk about South Sudan? Rwanda? India? The list is long. What Trump was actually advocating was not a racist belief, but instead a merit based immigration policy.


Clearly, what Germany intends is not simply repression of incitement to violence but repression of any objection to their immigration policies. This is based on the unproven allegation that it is "speech" that provokes violence and not the consequences of uncontrolled immigration.
The influx of migrants and the shocking increase of rape and other violent crimes by them has sparked a backlash among some Germans. German authorities apparently define "violence-inciting speech" as including any opposition to the Muslim migrant influx, no matter how reasoned. Leftist and Muslim groups insist that any form of criticism of multiculturalism is the same as hate speech. German politicians urging their party to use the presence of foreigners in Germany as an election campaign issue have been arrested.
Obviously, this suppression will start to include American media showing in Germany that does not meet German standards. Chief among these is Twitter, which the Germans claim deletes just 1% of what it considers unacceptable, but, clearly, posted comments in media like the Washington Post is included. Strangely, very little has been mentioned about anti-semitic posts in Germany although as is true in all of Europe the Jews, rather than e Muslims are the chief recipients of violence.
The inevitable is rapidly approaching. American media will have to choose between continuing using American standards of free speech or be banned from exposure in Germany. Indeed even this post would probably be banned.

nearmsp in reply to Bluhorizons

The British standards for free speech are close to German standards and The Economist goes by British standards not US. So no surprise if posts critical of the liberal view are deleted. WSJ is the only publication, they never delete any posts from subscribers.

Bluhorizons in reply to nearmsp

It is hard to accept how fast the US concept of freedom of speech is diverging from that of Europe but it is clara that soon, very soon, th big providers like Google are gong to have to chose becoming censors or leaving Europe.

evidencematters in reply to nearmsp

The Economist does not delate posts of those who a critical of whatever you think liberalism is. As with any blog it has rules which are clear. Using abuse is against the rules whether or not the poster has right or left wing views.

So why are you making up crap like this?


Important is crime *by* migrants, and how it correlates with public sentiment. The chart carefully omits it. It is only visible that migrants mass-assaulted locals in Cologne after number of anti-migrant posts fallen down about four times.
Fact is, Germany has big problem with both rule of law and freedom of speech.

umghhh in reply to guest-aalsiswa

Clear cases of fraud trough claims of young age have been revealed only after murders on young female teenagers by their much older 'boyfriends'. The age issue is important as being a young refugee means you have preferential treatment.
As per modern day German definition of the tern: age checks on anybody claiming to be a refugee are racism. So I would assume this means at least big part if not most of young claimants are just frauds.

I wonder if people (there are quite some NGOs and politicians but also quite some journalists) do not see how this approach to reality makes people suspect all of so called refugee of being petty criminals and majority being potential rapists or even murderers. This I think is exact the opposite of what such noble campaigns are trying to achieve.

My thought exactly. This chart would have been more informative if it also charted reports of crimes committed by refugees, and in particular sexual assaults on white women. This chart provides a single data point on that subject, which, unsurprisingly, was followed swiftly by a huge spike in anti-immigrant postings.


Germans are trying to prove that not talking about a problem makes problem disappear.
This is essence of banning criticism on social media.
Sane people would point that correlation does not equal causation. Censorship of social media will not diminish problems caused by migrants, only that attacks on migrants will happen without previous activity on social media (which will be censored out).

guest-lnmnimn in reply to guest-aalsenan

Hate speech and critical speech are different issues. Discussing the government's migration policies and the drawbacks of allowing large numbers of newcomers in is not at all the same as inciting violence against them. It is true enough that drawing the line between the two can be tricky, but defending the former (which is vital for a democracy) should never mean indulging the latter. Nazism wasn't about legitimately discussing the overepresentation of Jews in financial circuits, nor the social problems potentially posed by the influx of Eastern Jewry. It was about calling Jews cockroaches and dehumanizing them. Blanket attacks on Muslims surely falls into that same category.

Enders Shadow in reply to guest-lnmnimn

'Blanket attacks on Muslims'
And here, ladies and gentlemen, we see the problem. What definition of Muslim do we accept? Do we accept the one purveyed by the liberal media based on their assumption that everyone really has the same world view? Or do we engage with the reality that many Muslims, reflecting the mainstream beliefs of their religion, are anti-Semitic, committed to to conquest of all non-Muslim territory and see nothing wrong with terror attacks on civilians in Israel especially.
I don't know the answer to this question, but following the simplistic liberal line is clearly dishonest. OTOH there are many Muslims who reject the more obnoxious aspects of their faith. It is perhaps revealing that it is acceptable to smear all Trump supporters, UKIP supporters and AFD supporters as racist when some of their number are shown to be that way inclined. When a similar allegation is made against all Muslims on the basis of the demonstrable attitudes of a few, it is unambiguously rejected. Funny that.


"illegal speech" and "free speech",
"illegal speech" and "free speech",
go together like horse and carriage.
this, I'll tell you, bro~~~ther,
you can't have one without the o----ther!
you stupid.


Who is doing the attacking?
And who's being attacked?

umghhh in reply to sparkeyx

This is in fact very interesting question. The official police statistics in Germany refer to attacks on refugees when a racist paintings appear on the wall as well as when a so called refugee gets stabbed for respectless handling of some holy book or another by another so called refugee. This has been pointed out many times in local parliaments in Germany when discussing plans to fight 'right wing'. Strangely fighting left wing is never an issue demanding involvement of Staatsschutz (uber-police) and funds from department of family protection (there is in fact such dep. in federal gov. of Germany) etc.
Cases of sexual assault, abuse and fraud by using welfare services is hardly ever punished if a criminal is a 'refugee'. Often quoted example of no mercy approach to taxes paying citizens is imprisoning of people not willing to pay TV fee (Germany has well organized propaganda organizations which are paid for trough tax-like fee). One compare the two and may come to wrong conclusions....
When I ran away from commies I thought strange times are over. That was a bit naive from my side, as I see now.
OTOH the censorship under communists made people very creative in expressing their minds in ways not openly breaking the law. There has been a nice side effect of censorship and political oppression - few nice works of art that can be enjoyed straight or trough their layered meanings. Orwell with his doublespeak again and again. I guess he would not be surprised at all.