Germany to tighten hate speech and gun laws following synagogue attack

The German government on approved a draft law to crack down on the far-right, three weeks after a deadly attack by an alleged Neo-Nazi targeting a synagogue.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet signed off on a raft of measures that in particular target weapons sales and hate speech online. The bill must still be approved by parliament.

“The threat from far-right extremism and far-right terrorism, and with them antisemitism, is high in Germany and we can’t stress it often enough,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told a news conference.

Germany had already in 2017 passed one of the most restrictive laws in the world to combat racist and incendiary speech online, requiring social media giants to remove illegal content or risk fines of up to 50 million euros.

It came after the arrival of more than one million asylum-seekers since 2015 fueled far-right propaganda, and gives companies such as Twitter and Facebook 24 hours to remove posts that openly violate German law after they are flagged by users.

The new legislation goes further, compelling internet companies to flag problematic content including death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police.
The measures come three weeks after a right-wing extremist who had posted a racist, misogynistic and antisemitic manifesto online tried and failed to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

When he was unable to blast open the locked door of the temple, he shot and killed two non-Jewish Germans — one on the street outside and another at a Turkish snack shop.
Seehofer noted the fact that his weapons — reportedly built using a 3D printer — repeatedly failed to fire had prevented a potential “massacre.”

“I don’t even want to imagine what might have happened in Halle if we had American-style gun laws,” Seehofer said, referring to the far less restrictive weapons legislation in the United States.

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