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Police have said they carried out searches in 13 federal states over crimes like incitement and the use of banned symbols. Authorities have struggled to enforce Germany's strict hate speech laws on social media.
Police in Germany launched dozens of raids across the country on Thursday as part of a crackdown on incitement crimes being spread on the internet. The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has said it searched residences in 13 federal states as part of a coordinated operation.
One of the largest operations took place in the western city of Koblenz, where the apartments of 12 suspects were searched in connection to two right-wing extremist Facebook groups. The 12 suspects were between the ages of 45 and 68, and were believed to be responsible for the groups called "The Patriots," and "Our Germany is patriotic and free."
Between December 2017 and April 2018, several violations of Germany's hate speech laws were reported, including a comment that migrant family reunification applicants should "all be gassed."
The suspects are also believed to have openly called for members to commit crimes, incited racial and religious hatred, and used banned symbols — the use of Nazi-associated imagery is illegal in Germany.
The BKA said one of the administrators of the Facebook groups was also a leading member of a local chapter of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD)party.
Germany has been struggling to enforce its strict hate speech laws when it comes to comments made online, but the lack of concern most social media platforms have exhibited towards reining in racist and hateful content has left authorities and politicians searching for ways to get hateful speech offline.
However, police vigilance appears to be paying off. In 2017, authorities throughout Germany logged 2,270 cases of possibly illegal hate speech on the internet. In 2018, that number was 1472.
According to the BKA, three out of four hate posts in Germany are made by right-wing extremists.
es/sms (dpa, AFP)