German police tackle social media hate speech with series of raids

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German police have carried out raids on 60 addresses, targeting those suspected of posting hate content on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

The series of coordinated raids across the country aimed to tackle what police described as a "substantial rise in verbal vandalism" and is the first time authorities have acted in such a way.

Holger Munch, president of the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany's federal criminal police authority, said the action "makes it clear that police authorities of the federal and state governments act firmly against hate and incitement on the internet."

Typical crimes included "glorification of Nazism [and] xenophobic, anti-Semitic and other right-wing extremism" which, according to Munch has increased significantly in the wake of the European refugee crisis.

"Attacks of refugee shelters are often the result of radicalisation which begins in social networks," he added.

In Germany Facebook, Twitter and Google have all been criticised for failing to remove hate speech. Pressure from the German authorities led the firms to agree to delete hate speech within 24 hours at the end of last year.

Facebook also agreed to work with multimedia services to solve the problem; launch a task force to deal with the issue and to work with experts to develop ways to combat racism through discussions on social media.

The raids took place across 14 German provinces and involved 25 different police departments.

Under German law a person can be jailed for up to five years for inciting "hatred against a national, racial, religious group or group defined by their ethnic origins."

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