The German government wants to once again improve protection against insults and threats in online networks. A corresponding regulation provides for the draft law to combat right-wing extremism and hate crime, which the Federal Cabinet intends to pass on Wednesday. There is also provision for better protection for local politicians from people who stalk them and their relatives.

According to the draft law, anyone who threatens or announces bodily harm and sexual assault to others, such as lighting the other's car, will in future commit a crime - as was previously the case only with death threats. For such statements on the Internet, there should be prison terms of up to two years, and threats of murder or rape of up to three years. Insults on the Internet are also to be punished with up to two years in prison. In addition there is:

  • Local politicians are placed under the special protection of paragraph 188 of the Criminal Code. So far, it protects a "person standing in the political life of the people" against malicious defamation and defamation. So far, it has been used primarily by federal and state politicians.
  • Politicians, volunteers and journalists should be able to block the disclosure of their data in the population register more easily. At the moment, everyone can ask the authorities for their full names and addresses. If there is a "legitimate interest", further information including the marital status, address of the partner or nationalities is also possible. The hurdles for a two-year ban on this data are now set to decrease. In addition to danger to life or health, "protection against threats, insults and unauthorized re-enactments" should now also be provided.
  • Services such as Facebook and Twitter should in future immediately report certain posts to the Federal Criminal Police Office - such as neo-Nazi propaganda, the preparation of a terrorist act, incitement to violence, depictions of violence, but also the approval of crimes, threats of murder and rape and child pornography. Services currently only need to delete such content. A new job at the BKA will in future collect the postings and the IP addresses of the authors. Those who neglect this risk a fine of up to 50 million euros. In the event of suspected insults, slander and defamation, the person concerned should be able to decide whether to report the post to the network as problematic or, if necessary, to report it to the police.
  • If there are anti-Semitic motives for an act, this should exacerbate the punishment in the future. The change is a reaction to the attack in Halle, but also to the huge increase in anti-Semitic crimes. According to the Ministry of Justice, they have increased by 40 percent since 2013.

It is still unclear how Facebook or Twitter can safely decide what could and should not be punishable - only judges can legally do this. This is a central weak point of all regulations of this type. It is also technically unclear how the postings recognized as punishable should be forwarded to the BKA on the one hand and deleted at the same time.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) originally wanted to allow the authorities to request passwords in a blanket manner in the so-called Telemedia Act. After fierce criticism, it severely restricted the regulation: The responsible authority should only be allowed to request passwords for particularly serious crimes such as terrorism and homicides and only after a judge's decision. If the passwords are stored encrypted with the providers, they are also transmitted in the same way. "Encryption of the data remains unaffected," says the draft cabinet.

The Greens are already pushing for improvements. If the new position at the Federal Criminal Police Office for the recording of postings and IP addresses should not be chronically overloaded, "we have to define very precisely which processes and alleged criminal offenses must be transmitted," said domestic politician Irene Mihalic. In addition, the further route of investigations to state criminal offices and public prosecutors must be clearly described. "Because the Federal Criminal Police Office is barely able to deal with a flood of submissions."

The Bundestag should then further discuss the government draft law passed by the cabinet.