German Far-Right AfD Cries Censorship Over Anti-Muslim Tweets

  • AfD leaders double down, urge users to repeat deleted comments
  • Action follows new German law cracking down on hate speech

Alternative for Germany, a far-right opposition party that brands Chancellor Angela Merkel a traitor, accused the government of censorship after saying Twitter Inc. deleted derogatory comments about Muslim men by two of its leaders.

Deputy party head Beatrix von Storch said on Facebook that Twitter temporarily locked her account and deleted a posting she made referring to Cologne police. Von Storch suggested that the police tweet, posted in Arabic on New Year’s Eve, pandered to Muslim “gang-raping hordes of men.” Other AfD party leaders joined in, one of them comparing the curbs to secret-police methods used in ex-communist East Germany.

Alexander Gauland

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

“I urge every single user of social media to defend themselves against such oppression and to publish the deleted comments over and over again,” party co-chairman Alexander Gauland said in a statement on Tuesday.

New Year’s Eve festivities in Germany are more closely policed following mass sexual assaults of women in Cologne two years ago at the height of the refugee crisis that were blamed mostly on immigrant men. The AfD entered the federal parliament for the first time last year with 12.6 percent of Germany’s national vote after campaigning against Merkel’s open-borders refugee policy.

Anti-Establishment Voice

The AfD relies more than established parties on social media as it seeks to bypass traditional news outlets. A Twitter post by AfD caucus co-leader Alice Weidel, in which she defended Von Storch and used similar language, was “withheld in Germany,” the party said on Twitter.

Twitter representatives in Germany didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday during European business hours.

AfD leaders apparently ran afoul of a German law, passed by Merkel’s government before last year’s election and tightened on Jan. 1, that requires social platforms to remove hate speech within 24 hours or within seven days in complex cases. Cologne police filed a criminal complaint against Von Storch for her verbal attack, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported.

Technology companies have criticized the law for requiring them to make decisions they say should be left to the courts. A report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a human-rights watchdog, said the law may block free speech.

Gauland, the AfD co-leader, called it a “censorship law.”

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