People walk beside concrete barriers at the Brandenburg Gate ahead of the upcoming New Year's Eve celebrations in Berlin, December 2016.
Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS

Social media platforms may have once been praised as an inherently democratizing force, but in recent years they’ve gained more notoriety for the hate and harassment propogated on their networks. In response, the German government has taken the most decisive action of any democracy yet. In April 2017, the German cabinet passed new legislation on hate speech that the German Bundestag is scheduled to adopt in the summer. The law enables Germany to fine social media companies up to 50 million euros ($55 million) for not reacting swiftly enough to reports of illegal content or hate speech. 

The law has an aptly German name Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, or Network Enforcement Law. But its main target is U.S. tech giants, which provide the main social media networks in Germany. The clash between U.S. social media companies and the German government is about more than deleting hateful online comments. It is a fight about

To read the full article

  • HEIDI TWOREK is Assistant Professor in International History and a Fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Academy. 
  • More By Heidi Tworek