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Germany’s AfD steps up anti-Muslim rhetoric

26th Jan 2018

Hamed Chapman

Two prominent members of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), the third largest party in the country, are being investigated by police over anti-Muslim New Year messages posted on the social media.

Beatrix von Storch, Deputy Leader of the far-right group, had her Twitter account temporarily suspended after posting an inflammatory message in which she accused Cologne police of appeasing “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men”.

But Twitter only suspended von Storch’s account for 12 hours in response to her post, saying it had breached the site’s rules. AfD leaders called the actions censorship and accused the German authorities were acting like the Stasi in communist East Germany.

The Deputy Leader went on to re-post the same message on Facebook, where it was also blocked for reasons of incitement. She was supported by AfD party Leader Alice Weidel, who also wrote on Facebook that authorities were submitting to “imported, marauding, groping, abusive, knife-stabbing migrant mobs”.

The controversy intensified after Twitter suspended the account of German satirical magazine Titanic for publishing a series of posts by an imagined von Storch, including some that attempted to poke fun at her posts concerning Muslim men. Twitter restored the account 48 hours later following strong criticism from users.

The magazine’s Editor, Tim Wolff, said Titanic would defend itself from further suspensions and that Germany’s NetzDG risked undermining satire.

The architect of the NetzDG law, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) said in an interview with German daily Bild that the law was necessary because “social networks must adhere to our laws like everyone else,” adding: “Freedom of expression is not a free pass for committing criminal offenses.”

The head of the SPD parliamentary party, Andrea Nahles, also defended the law in an interview with weekly Bild am Sonntag, saying it needed to be implemented.

“We need to ensure more responsibility on the internet – it is not outside of the law,” she said. “This [law] has nothing to do with censorship.”

January 1 marked the start of a new “network enforcement law” (NetzDG) that forces internet platforms with more than 2 million users to delete illegal content in Germany within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. Failure to respond promptly risks fines up to €50 million ($60 million).

The AfD, which was only founded in 2013, made a major breakthrough in last year’s federal election in Germany, claiming 94 seats in the Bundestag, the third largest in the country.

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