Twitter banned the deputy chairperson of the AfD when she dared to question the German police for tweeting in Arabic on New Year's Eve.
A German daily, the Berliner Zeitung, reported that the ban was met with indignation among AfD leadership.
On New Year’s Eve, Von Storch remarked on a tweet by the Cologne Police in several languages, Arabic being one of them. Twitter blocked Beatrix von Storch for twelve hours following her remarks.
“What the hell is going on in this country? Why does a public police page in North Rhine Westphalia tweet in Arabic? Do you want to appease the barbaric Muslim, gang-raping hordes this way?” Von Storch wanted to know.
Twitter immediately blocked her account because of a “violation of their rules against hate content”. Von Storch’s tweet was deleted from Twitter on Monday. But she published a captured screenshot on Facebook nevertheless.
AfD MP Alice Weidel commented on Monday: “The year begins with the censorship law and with our authorities’ submission under the imported, marauding, groping, battering, knife-stabbing migrant mobs that we have kindly got to get used to. German police in the meantime communicate in Arabic, even though the official language in our country is German.”
On January 1, a new law by the Social Democrat Justice Minister Heiko Maas came into effect, the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, by which the non-immediate removal of statements that might fall under “Incitement of the people”, Volksverhetzung, is punishable by 50 million Euros for social media companies, without due process.
The tweet from Weidel, the party’s joint leader in the Bundestag, was also blocked by Twitter in Germany.
Cologne police have filed charges against Von Storch. An investigation for the suspicion of incitement or Volksverhetzung has been opened, a police spokesman told the news portal faz.net.
Late Monday evening, Von Storch announced that Facebook, too, had deleted her message containing the original content. She published a screenshot of the banning statement reading: “We blocked access to the following content for the following reason: Incitement (paragraph 130 of German Criminal Code).”
Returning to Twitter after her ban, she noted: “Facebook has now also censored me. This is the end of the constitutional state.” Von Storch criticized the Facebook move, coming even before the investigation had found any results. A judge had not yet pronounced a verdict on her remarks, she said.
Critics of the law say it will place censorship decisions that require legal training at the whim of technology companies based outside the country.
The AfD, digital rights activists, technology companies and political groups including the Free Democratic party, as well as the Left party have been vocal critics of the new law.
Cologne’s state prosecutor said “hundreds” of criminal complaints against Von Storch have been received. If she is found guilty of incitement to hatred, she could face a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.
Police in Cologne had tweeted out their text in English, French, Arabic and German.
The AfD, the third largest party in parliament, has said Islam is incompatible with the German constitution.
AfD leaders reacted with anger following the ban under a new law passed by parliament in June. “The censorship law of Justice Minister Heiko Maas has already showed on the first day of the year its ability to curtail freedom of expression,” said AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland.
“I call on every social media user to take action against such oppression by reposting the deleted comments again and again!”
Von Storch remarked sarcastically after her suspension: “Men raiding in groups are not barbarians. Especially not if it’s Muslims.”
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