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    German Authorities Conduct Crackdown on Facebook Hate Speech

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    German officers in all but two of the country’s 16 states have moved on people and organizations accused of spreading hate speech.

    At the center of the investigation is a private Facebook group where various national laws were alleged to have been broken, including posting praise for Nazism. Some 60 people across Germany have been implicated. The Federal Office of Criminal Investigations (BKA) is handling the case and states that they aim to "decisively confront the strong growth in verbal radicalism which is appearing on the internet." 

    The BKA has been coordinating a police unit since December 2015 combining federal and state police. The collaborative effort is called "Tackling Hate Posting," and was first organized after Bavarian police noticed regular hate-posts appearing on a private Facebook page between July and November 2015.

    The BKA claims that the hate-posts featured illegal far-right and anti-Semitic sentiments, and praised Nazism. Spreading information that incites violence against people because of their ethnic or religious background is against German federal law, and comes with a possible sentence of up to three years in jail.

    BKA chief Holger Münch, said in a statement that, "Today’s raids make one thing clear. German police are committed to tackling hate speech and provocation on the internet." He added that, 'Hate speech can not be allowed to poison the public debate. Attacks on refugee homes are often the result of a radicalization which begins on the internet."

    Germans aware of the issue have been very critical of Facebook for not being more active in addressing examples of hate speech on its site. Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for the site to have better moderation. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg responded to the criticisms by suggesting, "I think we have to work on that." 

    In September 2015, a German man came under investigation after publishing anti-Arab and anti-refugee posts. On a Facebook page he wrote, "dirty cattle, if I only had 24 hours and a sharp knife…"

    Things reached a boiling point in October 2015 when prosecutors in Hamburg opened an investigation to determine possible charges against three Facebook managers, over complaints that the site facilitates a hateful online environment. The investigation was dropped in March. 

    According to Stiftung Warentest, a consumer organization, German courts have handed down fines of up to 5,000 euros in hate speech trials. The most well-known was the case of Lutz Bachmann, former leader of the Pegida hate group, who was fined 9,600 Euros for calling refugees "scum" on Facebook. 

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