Angela Merkel: Freedom of Speech Should Be ‘Regulated’ By Government
German Chancellor signals moves to take away free speech
German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested during a speech in Berlin last week that freedom of expression is ok providing the government likes it.
Merkel made the contradictory comments at the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Berlin:
“We have freedom of expression in our country,” Merkel said.
“For all those who claim that they can no longer express their opinion, I say this to them: If you express a pronounced opinion, you must live with the fact that you will be contradicted. Expressing an opinion does not come at zero cost.”
But the question is, does the 'cost' come in the form of state penalties?
Merkel answered the question of what seemed to be supportive of the theory.
“But freedom of expression has its limits,” she added.
“Those limits begin where hatred is spread. They begin where the dignity of other people is violated. The [government] will and must oppose extreme speech. Otherwise, our society will no longer be the free society that it was.”
Deutsche Welle noted in a Twitter post that this was an unusually passionate speech:
“Angela Merkel is not known for her passion,” and this was “fiery speech about freedom of expression.”
In 2018, Merkel's government passed a law that punished social media companies' posts in what the government considered hate speech.
The penalties for not complying are up to 50 million euros.
But Merkel's remarks have multiple contexts.
Recently, Germany has seen a spike in violent anti-semitism, alongside the rise of far-right political party Alternative für Deutschland, who has grown in popularity amid Merkel’s government handling of the migrant crisis.
Angela Merkel is not known for her passion. But in this fiery speech about freedom of expression, the chancellor was unusually emotional. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/TbysWvOb0K— DW Politics (@dw_politics) November 27, 2019
In May this year, the country resorted to urging Jewish citizens to refrain from wearing traditional skullcaps in public.
Dr. Felix Klein, the German commissioner for combating anti-Semitism, urged Jews to refrain from wearing Jewish Kippah caps amid the rise of anti-Semitic attacks.
“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany,” Klein said.
But as for the 2018 social media free speech law, it might be worth noting that it’s been an unfortunate export from Germany.
Mozilla’s Internet Health Report said in April that the legislation “was observed with glee by governments who limit free speech. Russia, Venezuela, and Kenya are among countries who quickly designed their own versions of the law.”
Human Rights Watch also criticized the law, with its director Wenzel Michalski, stating:
“Governments and the public have valid concerns about the proliferation of illegal or abusive content online, but the new German law is fundamentally flawed."
“It is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.”
So if this is an issue that Merkel feels strongly about, what would be coming down the pipeline in the future?
Her remarks saying “[e]xpressing an opinion does not come at zero cost” and limits “begin where the dignity of other people is violated,” suggests she plans on taking more free speech away.