Germany pushed ahead with legislation that threatens social networks such as Facebook Inc. with fines of as much as 50 million euros ($53 million) if they fail to give users the option to complain about hate speech and fake news or refuse to remove illegal content. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday backed a bill that would also force the companies to purge content flagged as child pornography or inciting terrorism — two categories added to the original draft. Corporate officials responsible would risk separate fines of as much as 5 million euros. If passed by parliament, the measures would be the toughest regulation Facebook faces in any country where it operates.
Articles about voting issues in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The German government is scrambling to respond to a serious and growing threat of cyber attacks, but it lacks the legal framework to retaliate with cyber attacks of its own, top officials said on Monday. Cyber security is a major concern for Berlin as a Sept. 24 federal election approaches. German intelligence agencies said in December Russia was seeking to use propaganda, cyber attacks and other means to destabilize German society before the vote. “Cyber is what keeps me up at night,” Deputy Defense Minister Katrin Suder told reporters at an event hosted by the Federal Academy for Security Policy, a government training body. “This is not science fiction anymore … It is a topic of immense and growing importance.” Suder said the German military was making progress with a new cyber command that starts operations on Wednesday, and control over cyber functions that had been scattered across the military had become more centralized.
Amid fears of a rising populist tide in Europe, Germany seems to be resisting its rightward tug with unique success. The day after Donald Trump’s election, The New York Times hailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the “Liberal West’s Last Defender.” And it was to Merkel, the new “leader of the free world,” that Barack Obama directed his final phone call as president. Meanwhile, others around the world are embracing right-wing populism, from the Britons’ stunning decision to leave the European Union to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian policies. Trump’s election has appeared at times to inject fresh energy into the right-wing parties of Europe. As some countries there brace for national elections this year, the prospects for these parties look bright. In France, for example, far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen is expected to advance to the second round of balloting in April’s presidential elections; recent polls show her beating scandal-ridden conservative candidate Francois Fillon in the first round.
It was the German Social Democrats’ first electoral test under their new leader, Martin Schulz. They failed. Instead, voters in the state of Saarland flocked to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Sunday for fear of a new left-wing alliance. “A damper for Schulzomania,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily wrote in a Monday editorial as politicians in Berlin sought to evaluate the implications of the vote for the Sept. 24 national election in Germany, the European Union’s pivotal member state. Schulz has led a revival in his Social Democrats’ (SPD) poll ratings since winning the nomination as their leader in January. But the prospect of his center-left party ruling with the far-left Linke in Saarland turned off voters there.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives won a regional election in the western state of Saarland on Sunday, dealing a setback to their Social Democrat rivals and boosting her prospects of winning a fourth term in September’s national election. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) strengthened their position as the largest party in the state despite expectations ahead of the vote that the Social Democrats (SPD) would be boosted by their new national leader, Martin Schulz. The CDU won 40.7 percent of the vote, up from 35.2 percent in the previous election in Saarland in 2012, preliminary official figures showed. The SPD slipped to 29.6 percent, down from 30.6 percent.
A Bundestag committee on the hack was later informed that the intruders — possibly a team of Russian hackers, known variously as APT28, Sofacy and Fancy Bear, with suspected links to the Kremlin — had roamed around freely in the system for three weeks, spying on communication between lawmakers and their staff, and eventually absconding with a large trove of information. In the aftermath, the parliament held several emergency meetings and brought in government cyber specialists to analyze the attack. Eventually, the network and its security system were rebuilt from scratch, according to Klaus Vitt, Germany’s highest ranking government official in charge of information technology. But by then, the proverbial horse had bolted.
Germany: A far-right grouping may become the biggest opposition party in Germany | The Washington Post
Frauke Petry, the head of Germany’s new AfD party, just spent a few days in Moscow to build connections with Russian politicians. The AfD party is one of a number of right-wing populist parties that have sprung up in Europe over the last few years. While it is not as well established as France’s National Front party — which is leading in some polls for the forthcoming French presidential election — it has representatives in 10 of 16 German states (this is tough under Germany’s electoral law, which discriminates against small parties through imposing electoral thresholds). Its influence on political debates in Germany is far bigger than its number of elected politicians would suggest. So what is the AfD, and how is it changing German politics?
Seven months out from Germany’s September election, Citizens For Europe began its campaign Thursday by concluding that only 2.9 percent of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative parliamentarians had migrant backgrounds. That compared with 21 percent of Germany’s 82 million inhabitants having migratory origins, including people of color. In the Bundestag as a whole, the migrant origin quota was only 5.9 percent, Citizens for Europe (CFE) concluded. In a graphic video focusing first on her Christian Democrats and allied Bavaria Christian Social Union, CFE depicts 9 CDU/CSU parliamentarians with migrant backgrounds, compared to 302 without. And, it asks, how representative is the conservative Bundestag parliamentary group? It’s currently led by CDU whip Volker Kauder, a close aide to Merkel. Further videos on other parties, including the Social Democrats, would follow, said Citizens for Europe, which describes itself as a “non-partisan” group formed in 2010 by committed and young citizens in the EU.
Allegations that the Russian government launched an organized campaign to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election have unsettled Europe. With national elections approaching in Germany in September, policymakers in Berlin are concerned that Europe’s largest economy could be the next target. “We of course have to assume that in the German campaign there will be attempts to influence the outcome of the federal elections,” said Daniela Schwarzer, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations, during a recent podium discussion on cyber security. The discussion, which took place during the Munich Security Conference, was attended by interior and defense ministers from a host of nations. They listened as security experts Klaus Schweinsberg and Marco Gercke ran simulations in which a fictional European nation faces a cyber attack aimed at its elections.
Lisa was a Russian-born teenager living in Berlin who last January said she had been abducted and raped by three men she alleged were immigrants, noting they were “southerners” who spoke poor German. As the story spread on social media, Russian media outlets pounced on it, widely reporting the 13-year-old girl had been held as “a sex slave”. Before the police could complete their investigation, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused the German authorities of “sweeping problems under the rug”. Berlin responded by warning Moscow not to exploit the case “for political propaganda”. A few days later, prosecutors concluded the girl had not been abducted or raped, but had gone to a friend’s home to hide from her parents after getting into trouble at school. Despite the prosecutors’ findings, Russian media issued dire warnings about sex crimes committed by immigrants, prompting an outcry in Germany’s ethnic Russian community. Protests were staged across the country, including a demonstration by 700 people outside Angela Merkel’s chancellery.