In clampdown on left-wing ‘hate,’ Germany bars website tied to G-20 violence
Germany on Friday banned an online portal it said was responsible for stoking left-wing violence, which came to a head this summer at the Group of 20 economic summit in Hamburg.
The move comes seven weeks after anti-capitalist protesters in Hamburg clashed with police, including an anarchist fringe torching cars and looting shops in the northern port city. Police said 500 officers were injured.
The crackdown also comes as authorities — in Germany and elsewhere — grapple with the role of digital communication in motivating extremism and stoking violence. After a demonstration by white nationalists in Charlottesville descended into deadly chaos, Internet hosting companies have come under pressure to scrap far-right platforms such as Daily Stormer and Vanguard America. Germany has strict laws against some of the views that circulate on these channels, such as Holocaust denial, but anonymous commenting makes it harder to hold individuals accountable.
Internet watchdog groups in Germany have warned that far-right websites are growing in popularity, but Friday’s action was notable for aiming at the left. The website linksunten.indymedia.org was taken offline for “sowing hate,” the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, told reporters.
He said treating the portal, founded in 2009 and currently operated by seven administrators, as an “association” instead of a media outlet meant constitutional protections for free expression were less firm.
Police in southwest Germany searched properties associated with the site’s management, according to Thomas Strobl, interior minister of the state of Baden-Württemberg. Both he and de Maizière are members of the ruling Christian Democratic Union, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The website has been a destination for leftists of many stripes — anarchists and squatters, anti-capitalists and antifascists, opponents of the police and of critics of borders. It served as a log of opportunities for direct action and celebrated protests and other forms of interference. It also tracked opposing forces.
“Every day, thousands of leftists visit the website to inform themselves of all aspects of antagonistic trends,” read the site’s description. In June, a claim of responsibility by G-20 activists for arson attacks on German rail services appeared on the site.
German media reported that a series of anonymous threats to police — labeled as “pigs” and “bulls” by commentators — had led officials to disarm the online forum.