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Austria’s New Hate Speech Law

  • Austria’s proposed law is modelled on Germany’s much criticized NetzDG law, also known as the censorship law, which came into effect in January 2018 and requires social media companies to delete or block any online unlawful content within 24 hours or 7 days at the most, or face fines of up to 50 million euros.
  • If the proposed law is passed, the freedom of speech of Austrians online will be subject to the arbitrary decisions of corporate entities, such as Twitter, Goggle and Facebook.
  • With Austria’s draft online hate speech law, yet another European country is taking another step towards making online censorship an institutionalized feature of European hate speech laws.
  • “We too often make bad laws with good intentions. Online platforms should not censor the freedom of expression,” said Chairman of the Senate Law Commission Philippe Bas after the decision of France’s Constitutional Council. It can only be hoped that European lawmakers eager to censor free speech online will heed the ruling of the French constitutional court.

By Judith Bergman | 14 November 2020

GATESTONE INSTITUTE — The Austrian government has presented a draft online hate speech law, the Communication Platforms Act, which, if passed, will limit free speech in the country. The Austrian government writes in the introduction to its proposed law:

“The main reason for the development of this draft Act is the worrying development that the Internet and social media, in addition to the advantages that these new technologies and communication channels provide, have also established a new form of violence, and hate on the Internet is increasing in the form of insults, humiliation, false information and even threats of violence and death. The attacks are predominantly based on racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic motives. A comprehensive strategy and a set of measures are required that range from prevention to sanctions. This strategy is based on the two pillars of platform responsibility and victim protection, with the present draft Act relating to ensuring platform responsibility”.

The proposed law is modelled on Germany’s much criticized NetzDG law, also known as the censorship law, which came into effect in January 2018 and requires social media companies to delete or block any online unlawful content within 24 hours or 7 days at the most, or face fines of up to 50 million euros. In May 2020, France adopted a similar law, known as the “Avia law“, also modelled on the German NetzDG law, which requires online platforms to remove reported “hateful content” — incitement to hatred, or discriminatory insult, on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability — within 24 hours. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to 1.25 million euros or 4% of the platform’s global revenue.

Similarly, the Austrian law requires “obviously” unlawful content to be deleted within 24 hours and other unlawful content within seven days. Failure to do so could lead to fines of up to 10 million euros ($12 million). Platforms must provide a reporting function for such content and react immediately to notifications. […]

1 Comment on Austria’s New Hate Speech Law

  1. Wait a minute. It was my understanding that Austria had turned populist / right in the last election and that domestic freedoms would ease, while Vienna would send bank many of the migrants that now call their streets home.

    This new law is very confusing. Heck it is almost as confusing as the Austrian crowd who went-a-huntin with our Supreme Court Justice that magically killed himself with his own pillow. Obviously like the suicide of Mr. Vincent Foster, no REAL investigation was required.

    Still, I remain confused.

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