Europol, the European Union’s police agency, carried out widespread, coordinated anti-free speech raids across seven countries earlier this week as a part of what it claimed to be a clampdown on online “hatred and incitement to violence”.
German prosecutors and the EU law enforcement agency said on Tuesday that 96 suspects are being investigating for alleged “hateful” online posts. During the raids, police searched 83 buildings in Germany and seized individual’s private property, including laptops and mobile phones.
The United Kingdom, France, Norway, Italy, and the Czech Republic also took part in the anti-free speech raids under the direction of the European Union’s law enforcement agency.
A spokesman for Europol told Reuters News Agency that Tuesday’s raids focused on online posts that promote xenophobia and racism. The raids come at a time when Europe is dealing with a wave of Islamic terror attacks in countries like France and Austria — which police failed to prevent — along with rising crime in many European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and once again, France.
According to a German prosecutor in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the suspects under investigation had insulted a female politician online while another allegedly made anti-Semitic comments.
Among countries throughout the western world, Germany, without a doubt, has by far the most draconian anti-free speech laws. The German government regularly hands out prison sentences to those who are alleged to have “incited hatred against minorities” or who have denied the Holocaust. At the same time, foreigners convicted of brutal sex crimes are regularly handed light sentences.
In 2017, German lawmakers introduced the Network Enforcement Act, which ended up being adopted the same year and was enacted into law in early 2018, the American news publication Foreign Policy reports. The law allows the German government to fine social media networks with over two million users up to €500,000 for each day the platform fails to delete a story deemed to be false news. Facebook relies on a variety fact-checking organizations to determine whether news is true, with many of them funded by progressive billionaire George Soros.
Many have asserted that Berlin’s anti-free speech law is nothing less than reproduction of similar laws enacted by authoritarian regimes like Russia and Venezuela to stifle free speech and debate.
A 2019 survey carried out by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach revealed that just 18 percent of Germans feel free to express their views in public.