NetzDG
11.05.2021

Reform of the NetzDG – What will change?

Hardly any law in recent years has caused as much turmoil in the Internet community as the Network Enforcement Act, or NetzDG for short. Now the Bundestag has passed a comprehensive reform of the law that, among other things, is intended to strengthen users’ rights and force network operators to be more transparent.

The NetzDG: Criticism from the start

Since October 2017, the federal government’s Network Enforcement Act has been intended to curb (hate) crime on social networks. Accordingly, platform operators are obliged, under threat of heavy fines, to delete posts that violate the law, to forward metadata of their authors to the authorities and to make it easier for other users to report these posts. Naturally, there was no shortage of criticism of the amendment from the outset.

For example, there were fears that the law would lead to rampant censorship, or “overblocking.” In addition, the original law did not allow users affected by deletions to object. The transparency obligation for networks to disclose how and to what extent posts have been deleted, which is anchored in the NetzDG, was also a repeated target of critics. The Bundestag adjusted these points when it passed the reform on Thursday.

The innovations of the NetzDG

The new version of the NetzDG now stipulates that network operators must pass on data on the form and extent of the deletion of posts they have carried out to researchers. This is intended to simplify the analysis of “hate speech” directed against certain groups with regard to the perpetrators and their actions. Legislators have learned from the data scandals of the past, such as the case surrounding the British data analysis company Cambridge Analytica, and have set high data protection requirements for handling this data. Researchers must submit a comprehensive protection concept, and providers will also be reimbursed for any costs incurred.

Data sharing is intended to facilitate analysis. (Source: AdobeStock / wutzkoh)

The reform also brings innovations for users. For example, platform operators are now obliged to simplify the reporting of contributions that are suspected of violating the law. In addition, users will in future have the opportunity to object to the deletion of their posts via a counterstatement procedure. Accordingly, this regulation is also to apply to deletions that have not been made in accordance with the law, but in accordance with the platform’s own community standards. The only express exceptions are posts that are obviously spam, and it will still not be possible to object to their removal.

Bitcom fears that the reform will create too much administrative work. (Source: AdobeStock / stokkete)

Criticism of the reform

In addition to the opposition in the Bundestag, represented by Renate Künast (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) for example, who feels that the reform does not go far enough, as reporting procedures still take too long, the industry association Bitcom has also voiced criticism. It fears that the NetzDG will create a “bureaucratic monster” with unmanageable administrative costs due to the counter-notification procedure. The practicability of the renewed law will therefore still have to be proven.

Source cover: AdobeStock / Polarpx

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