All presentations of the 10th Hamburg Media Symposium are now available online as video
. What rules structure our online world? How it is decided what is allowed online? And how do social actors behave? These questions were the focus of the event, which was organised on 6 June 2019 by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut, the Medienanstalt Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. Approximately 260 experts and interested parties discussed the Network Enforcement Act and other forms of control and the fundamentals of responsible media policy.
Today, billions of people not only exchange holiday pictures on the Internet, but also spread false reports and hate comments. Thus, they influence the themes and tone of public discourse. With the Network Enforcement Act (NEA), the state has introduced rules for providers of social networks concerning the handling of user complaints about hate crimes and other criminal content on the Internet. Since its introduction, however, the law has met with criticism because it has led platforms to rigid deletions, thus restricting Internet users' freedom of expression. Social media and platforms, for their part, try to regulate content with their own community standards. So, who and what determines what we actually get to see online?
After one and a half years of experience with the NEA and initial reports from the companies concerned on its implementation, an analysis is necessary. Does the law work? Have the expectations attached to it been fulfilled or have the fears associated with it come true? Are other types of standards more appropriate? Would the standards of the companies alone be sufficient? What about the protection of the freedom of expression of Internet users - and with the protection of Internet users from the opinions of others?
The Network Enforcement Act – Effects, Experiences, Perspectives
After a brief introduction to the topic by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz
, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut, the first part of the event focused on experiences with the NetzDG from different perspectives. "In the 80s and 90s, many believed that the Internet would create a legal vacuum. Today we see an increasing regulation of communication platforms from two directions: The platforms themselves set standards for what can be said on them. And the states are also developing new regulations, the controversial NEA," said Schulz.
The effects of the Network Enforcement Act (NEA), its concept and implementation were first presented by Frank Meixner, Head of the unit 'General Issues', Division VIII Network Enforcement Act; Concumer Protection, Federal Office of Justice, which was also responsible for the Network Enforcement Act. "Since NEA came into force," he says, "about 1,100 proceedings have been initiated on this basis."
Representatives from Google and Facebook provided an insight into the practical implementation of the Network Enforcement Act: Dr. Arnd Haller, Head of Legal of Google (Northern Europe), first described the handling of filtering obligations under the NEA based on some "anecdotes from the engine room of Google and YouTube." Marie-Teresa Weber, Public Policy Manager at Facebook, reported on the so-called "complaint flow": a multi-stage complaint review process used by the social network to review content to be deleted. Interesting finding: According to Haller and Weber, both YouTube and Facebook are currently deleting more content due to their community standards than according to the Network Enforcement Act.
Thomas Fuchs, Director of the Medienanstalt Hamburg / Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH), is responsible for pursuing complaints in the social media as well. In a progress report, he described the practice as "trusted flagger." He made it clear that the future of Network Enforcement Act should no longer be about mere mass and speed, but about the quality of the deletions: "Pure speed in deleting is the wrong indicator."
How decisions of German courts and the restoration of deleted Internet content are handled was shown by Dr. Matthias C. Kettemann
of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut. "Platforms provide communication spaces which are now increasingly seen by courts - and most recently by the Federal Constitutional Court - as essential for our social communication. This has consequences for companies that are no longer able to switch and operate as they wish. Their rights and those of citizens and users must be brought into practical concordance. A new quality of legalisation, even 'constitutionalisation' of the platforms has begun."
In the second part of the symposium, experts from the field demonstrated how content management actually looks like and how the different actors behave. In his impulse presentation, Martin Drechsler showed the perspective of The German Association for Voluntary Self-Regulation of Digital Media Service Providers (FSM). This was followed by lectures by Merlin Koene, Partner, fischerAppelt, advisors GmbH, and Claus Grewenig, Head of Media Policy at Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland GmbH.
Finally, all guests participated in a panel discussion moderated by Wolfgang Schulz and answered numerous questions from the audience.
The Series "Hamburg Media Symposium"
The Hamburg Media Symposium took place for the tenth time in 2019. Every year in June, the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut, the Medienanstalt Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce present the latest findings on a current media topic and enable a discussion between science and experts from the field.
Picture: Copyright Leibniz Insitute for Media Research / C. Matzen. From left to right: M. C. Kettemann, A. Haller, M. T. Weber, W. Schulz, A. Mücke.
Click here for the RTL Nord article about the event (Timecode 7:01).
Click here for the Sat.1 Regional article about the event (Timecode 9:18).