According to BBC’s Patrick Evans, Germany’s new NetzDG law
doesn’t actually change what’s considered hate speech in Germany. No new offences are created. The law simply cites sections of the German Criminal Code which details illegal speech online. The categories range from “forming terrorist organisations”, to the much vaguer “defamation of religions, religious and ideological associations.”
While it may be comforting to note that NetzDG doesn’t create any new laws, it should lead to questions about the purpose(s) of a law which creates no new regulation. Such questions are likely to lead to uncomfortable topics.
For example, what constitutes “defamation of religions, religious and ideological associations”? Would an advertisement calling attention to concerns over public funding of religions in schools (PFRS) be considered defamatory to a religious or ideological association? That is to say, would it be defamatory of Ontario’s Catholic School Boards to point out that their unique and privileged funding status is also a human rights violation and an example of Systemic Faithism?
Would Germany’s NetzDG law be brought to bear in a legal case where an individual attempted to oppose public funding of religion in schools? Fortunately, the question is speculative and irrelevant to Canadian law – but it is not without merit to understand the implications of legal instruments drafted and adopted by federal governments where those instruments purport to have no legal effect.
Why are governments passing laws with claims that they have no legal standing or effect? Perhaps the passing of such instruments justifies and enables, more expensive work by government apparatus.
In Canada, consider the controversial passing of Motion 103, a motion intended to condemn “islamophobia” (specifically) and “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” generally. Currently, the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is hosting exploratory work regarding Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination. While there may (or may not) be a link between the passing of M103 and this new work by CHPC (seemingly commenced June 2017), one wonders if the systemic faithism entrenched in provinces such as Ontario and Alberta might be explored and exposed in such a venue.
Like NetzDG, M103 appears to be targeted to an effective silencing of criticism of religion(s) (and religious people) rather than enabling such criticism. In their strategic actions, the notion that federal governments learn from each other’s methods should not be ignored. NetzDG is a a singular case study in controlling or limiting freedom of expression, as is M103.