Facebook user fined thousands of euros for hate speech against German politician | News | DW | 11.04.2017
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Facebook user fined thousands of euros for hate speech against German politician

A Berlin court has convicted a 57-year-old man of hate speech against Green Party politician Claudia Roth. The defendant posted in fall 2015 that the parliamentarian should be "hanged."

The Berlin-Tiergarten district court on Tuesday found a 57-year-old man guilty of verbally insulting Roth in two Facebook posts in which he vilified the MP and demanded that she be "hanged."

The 57-year-old was fined 4,800 euros ($5,095) over the comments posted in September and October 2015. Admitting that he meant to insult Roth, the defendant argued that he hadn't been serious "about the hanging."

'Despicable and creepy' comments

The case against the man was started by another Facebook user. The employee of a digital printing company said the defendant was a customer who "seemed to be an enraged citizen" and later came across the man's "despicable and creepy" comments online.

Roth, too, filed a complaint shortly afterwards. She did not stand as a witness in the trial.

According to Tuesday's verdict, the accused admitted to writing the posts. The two entries were not justified, the court said, adding that "there are limits."

The defendant's comments created an "abstract threat," the ruling continued, adding that there are "people who feel called to comply with such requests."

The initial penalty of 1,900 euros corresponds to a 160-day rate of 12 euros. However, the daily rate handed down in the verdict depends on the income of the defendants. As the defendant failed to provide any information about their income, it must instead be estimated by the court, a court spokesman explained.

The judgment has not yet been finalized; the man can still appeal.

Freedom of expression concerns

Germany's network enforcement law (NetzDG), recently submitted by the federal government, is intended to help overcome online hate speech. Under the legislation, social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter are obliged to delete criminal content.

The proposed regulation has been the subject of sharp criticism, however, over fears that more content will be erased than necessary and effectively put freedom of expression at risk.

ksb/dr (AFP, dpa)