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German court sentences Facebook user to jail for xenophobic comments

A court in Würzburg in southern Germany has sentenced a man to jail for writing hateful comments against Jews and migrants. The punishment follows calls by German politicians to counter online hate propaganda.

Judges in Würzburg on Monday sentenced the Facebook user to one and a half years behind bars for writing far-right comments on the social media website. Last year, another local court sentenced the man to two years and three months in prison after he published slogans in 2014, advocating violence and the murder of Jews, foreigners and refugees.

Judges on Monday noted that the man expressed remorse at having written those comments. However, they justified the sentence, saying the man had a long history of offences and that online hate speech was on the rise in Germany.

MPs urge action

Many politicians in Germany have been complaining of the rise in xenophobic comments in the last few years, a phenomenon that has coincided with the arrival of hundreds and thousands of refugees into the country.

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In September 2015, the government asked internet companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook to remove hateful slogans from their websites within 24 hours of them being reported. However, several users say their requests to remove offensive content often go unheard.

Large fines mooted

Last week, German politician Volker Kauder proposed a fine of 50,000 euros for every comment that online companies failed to remove from their websites. Speaking to the German magazine, "Der Spiegel," he said social networks should come with a warning like the one on cigarette packs, saying "Anyone who communicates here must expect insulting remarks."

The government is also planning to launch a compensation system for victims of online hate speech. In September, the federal criminal office BKA launched raids across the country to catch hate propagators.

"Our society is based on moral principles - offline and online... Any alleged spheres of lawlessness are not acceptable," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at the time.

mg/msh (dpa)

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