Germany’s NetzDG: A Key Test for Combatting Online Hate

CEPS Policy Insight

28 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2018

See all articles by William Echikson

William Echikson

Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

Olivia Knodt


Date Written: November 22, 2018


Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, or NetzDG law represents a key test for combatting hate speech on the internet. Under the law, which came into effect on January 1, 2018, online platforms face fines of up to €50 million for systemic failure to delete illegal content. Supporters see the legislation as a necessary and efficient response to the threat of online hatred and extremism. Critics view it as an attempt to privatise a new ‘draconian’ censorship regime, forcing social media platforms to respond to this new painful liability with unnecessary takedowns.

This study shows that the reality is in between these extremes. NetzDG has not provoked mass requests for takedowns. Nor has it forced internet platforms to adopt a ‘take down, ask later’ approach. At the same time, it remains uncertain whether NetzDG has achieved significant results in reaching its stated goal of preventing hate speech.

This paper begins by explaining the background that led to the development and passage of NetzDG. It examines the reaction to the law by civil society, platforms and the government. It concludes with suggestions, for platforms, civil society and the authorities, on ways to improve the law to be effective in the fight against online hate while keeping the internet open and free.

CEPS acknowledges the Counter Extremism Project’s support for this research. The study was conducted in complete independence. It is based on interviews with regulators, company representatives, and civil society activists. The authors take full responsibility for its findings.

Keywords: Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, NetzDG, hate speech, internet, social media platforms, censure

Suggested Citation

Echikson, William and Knodt, Olivia, Germany’s NetzDG: A Key Test for Combatting Online Hate (November 22, 2018). CEPS Policy Insight, Available at SSRN:

William Echikson (Contact Author)

Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) ( email )

1 Place du Congres, 1000
Brussels, 1000

Olivia Knodt


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