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German police launch mass raids over online hate speech

German police conducted dozens of raids targeting the spreading of hate speech online. Several politicians have lauded the concerted efforts.

German police in a coordinated effort conducted a series of raids targeting

hate speech online

. Federal police (BKA) performed operations in 14 of Germany's 16 states, reportedly investigating roughly 60 suspects. No arrests were made but computer equipment, cameras and smartphones were seized in the first-ever mass raids targeting online hate speech.

The operation focused in particular on the German state of Bavaria, where according to police sources, a secret Facebook group had posted messages glamorizing National Socialism, which is illegal in Germany. The police said that this group and others spread xenophobic, anti-Semitic and other

radical far-right

content.

Holger Münch

BKA head Holger Münch said that the marked increase in online hate speech had to be curbed

BKA President Holger Münch said the operation exemplified the resolve with which the government was determined to combat hate speech and incitement online. He added that

hate crimes had increased

since the onset of the refugee crisis and were poisoning public discourse.

"That's why we have to curb this increase in hate speech and make sure that criminal content is prosecuted without compromise," he added.

United front against hate speech

The raids built on the work of task group aimed at combating hate speech, which had been established in December 2015 between the federal government and the federal states.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere meanwhile said that "violence, including verbal violence, in any form and in any context" was "unacceptable."

He stressed that the German law against hate speech was equally applicable and valid online.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that the resolute approach toward hate postings on the part of the police should also serve as a deterrent, adding that internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter needed to find and block hate speech.

ss/msh (AFP, epd)

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