Is the new Austrian Hate Speech Act a further step towards monopoly speech?

Translator: Connecticut Farm -KY

Reviser: Connecticut Farm-Mr. Snail

Editor: Wenyun


       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. However, the law has always been in controversial, and critics have warned from the beginning that the platform will excessively delete content in order to avoid the risk of punishment, which will restrict freedom of speech.

       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.

       Just like Germany’s NetzDG law, the Austrian censorship law privatizes state censorship by requiring social media platforms to censor their users on behalf of the state. 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, Google and Facebook.

        On the surface, the Austrian “New Hate Speech Law” is Europe’s step towards institutionalizing online censorship and enacting legislation to control hate speech. The Constitutional Council noted in its press release:

“[According] to Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789: ‘The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious human rights: any citizen can therefore speak, write, print freely, except to answer for the abuse of this freedom in the cases determined by the law’. It is inferred from these provisions that with the present state of the means of communication and in view of the generalized development of online communication services to the public, as well as the importance of these services for participation in democratic life and the expression of ideas and opinions, this right implies the freedom to access and express yourself in these services…”

Obviously the two laws are contradictory

       Cyber ​​speech attacks need to be controlled. It is particularly significant who is at the core to control the display. After decentralizing all power to companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook, how to ensure that these media companies can fairly censor speech? This media censorship mechanism also needs Third-party supervision to prevent “monopoly control of public opinion,” or even worse, when the “dictatorship” controls the “monopoly media”, will it turn into a media farce like this “US election”.

       Please do not “monopolize speech” in the name of protecting the people. The times are advancing and the decentralization of populism has begun. Everyone’s voice is very important. Oppose “dictatorship” and “monopoly”. Please stand up to protect your own rights.

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Disclaimer: This article only represents the author’s view. Gnews is not responsible for any legal risks.

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