The Digital Berlin Wall: How Germany (Accidentally) Created a Prototype for Global Online Censorship
This is report which I have co-authored with the Danish think-tank, Justitia.
Germany´s Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) is the most prominent weapon in the online arsenal of democracies. NetzDG obliges social media platforms to remove illegal content within 24 hours or risk huge fines. But in a global free speech race to the bottom, the NetzDG matrix has been copy-pasted by authoritarian states to provide cover and legitimacy for digital censorship and repression.
Jacob Mchangama and I report that at least 13 countries have adopted or proposed models similar to the NetzDG matrix. According to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net (2019), five of those countries are ranked “not free” (Honduras, Venezuela, Vietnam, Russia and Belarus), five are ranked “partly free” (Kenya, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines), and only three ranked “free” (France, UK and Australia).
Most of these countries have explicitly referred to the NetzDG as a justification for restricting online speech. Moreover, several of these countries, including Venezuela, Vietnam, India, Russia, Malaysia, and Kenya, require intermediaries to remove vague categories of content that include “fake news”, “defamation of religions”, “anti-government propaganda” and “hate speech” that can be abused to target political dissent.