Critics of the Austrian law on hate speech on the Internet are afraid of “over-blocking”

In the fight against illegal online content, the Austrian government wants to make platforms more accountable. Many details are still missing, but the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) seems to be a model. Critics fear over-blocking and collateral damage but also see opportunities.

Vienna does not want to wait for Brussels in the fight against hate online. A few months before the Commission is due to present its proposal for a Digital Services Act (DSA) in autumn, in which online platforms are to be regulated, the Austrian government wants to draft its own law.

Online platforms will thus be obliged to delete illegal content within a certain period. In addition, all companies concerned are to appoint their own authorised representatives to ensure that a central person can receive complaints and sanctions.

The law is to be examined as early as next week and was sent as a draft to the Green coalition partner on Thursday (23 July), a spokesperson for Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler (ÖVP), who is working on the law together with Justice Minister Alma Zadić (Greens).

A law is being pushed through in great haste and “with a hot needle,” said Thomas Lohninger, head of the network policy NGO ‘epicenter.works’ in an interview.

Lohninger does not oppose legal regulation of platform content moderation in principle, and says that online hate speech is an urgent problem and that the creation of authorised representatives is a positive development.

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