Germany takes action to combat hate crimes in response to Yom Kippur synagogue attack


BERLIN (JTA) — Germany will require internet providers to report hate speech and threats online as part of a program to combat hate crimes driven in part by the deadly attack near a synagogue on Yom Kippur.

It was not enough to express shock at that violent attack in Halle, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at a news conference announcing the Cabinet’s approval of the nine-point program on Wednesday. Action must be taken, including tightening gun control laws, he said.

Internet providers are now only required to remove or block such hate speech and threats. A central reporting position will be opened at the Federal Criminal Police Office.

Prosecution should be easier, and gun sales harder, according to the new measures: For one thing, members of organizations that are under observation as anti-Democratic should not be able to purchase guns, according to the new rules.

“The internet is not a lawless zone,” Minister of Justice Christine Lambrecht said at the news conference, according to German news reports.

Preventive programs also will receive more funding, with plans to provide at least $128 million through 2023 for some 4,000 existing programs.

Some of the announced measures will require a Bundestag vote.

One goal is to make it easier to prosecute anyone who threatens politicians and spreads extreme right-wing hate online. The move follows the murder of Walter Lübcke, a politician in Hesse, who was shot by a neo-Nazi extremist in June.

Josef Schuster,  head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told reporters it was  “high time that action was taken.”

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