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Google said on Tuesday that it is planning legal action against Germany over the country’s expanded version of hate speech laws that recently went into effect. Google says that the expansion of the laws violated the right to privacy of its users.

The Alphabet unit, which also runs YouTube, filed the suit at the administrative court in Cologne to challenge a provision that allows user data to go to law enforcement even without proof of a crime.

The request Google filed is for a judicial review and comes when Germany is gearing up for its general election in September.

Founded fears

There is justifiable concern that hostile discourse and influence campaigns on social media can destabilize the country’s typically non-dramatic politics.

YouTube’s regional head of public policy, Sabine Frank, said in a blog post that the ‘massive intervention’ in its users’ rights is in conflict with data protection laws, Germany’s constitution and European law.

Germany passed a law known in Germany as NetzDG in early 2018, making online social networks responsible for policing and removing ‘problematic’ content. The law also requires the social networks to publish regular reports proving compliance.


The law was panned, called ineffective, and in May, was expanded to broaden its application and make it stricter.

Google has taken issue with a requirement added to the NetzDG law that requires providers to pass to law enforcement, the personal details of those sharing content suspected to be hateful. Only once the information has been passed to law enforcement is a decision made to launch a criminal case.

That implies innocent people could have their data added to a criminal database without knowing it. It’s for this reason that the giant is asking for a judicial review in Cologne.