German MP gets blocked on social media, faces probe over anti-Muslim tweet

A German MP from the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Beatrix von Storch, has had her social media accounts blocked over a tweet targeting Muslims. She also faces a criminal probe under a new German law.

The outburst that landed Von Storch in hot water was a reaction to a post on Twitter from Cologne police. The department offered New Year greetings and linked safety information in a series of messages in German and other languages, but it was the post made in Arabic that prompted the MP’s outrage.

“What the hell is going on in this country? How come an official NRW [North Rhine-Westphalia] police account tweets in Arabic? Do you intend to appease these barbaric gang-raping hordes of Muslim men in such a way?” von Storch, who is also a deputy head of the AfD faction in the German parliament and a member of the far-right party’s federal executive board, wrote on Twitter.

READ MORE: Germany says women at risk outside ‘safe zones’ instead of preventing attacks – former MI5 officer

In response, Twitter shut down von Storch’s account for 12 hours and informed her that she had violated hate speech rules. That, however, did not stop the politician as she turned to Facebook to once again express her anger over the police tweet as well as over her ban on Twitter.

“Happy New Year! In a free country! Where everyone is allowed to call barbarians barbarians, even if they are Muslims,” she wrote, commenting on her previous statements. This time, she, however, specifically explained that she referred only to those Muslims, because of whom “we establish safe zones for the German women as the state is unable to offer protection against THESE barbarians outside of these tents any longer.”

This still eventually led her to being also briefly blocked on Facebook over violation of German law. Her post, however, was not removed this time. Von Storch then referred to the Facebook move as “censorship” and an “end of a state governed by the rule of law,” adding that Facebook “had already adjudged” her before any verdict has been issued by a German court.

In the meantime, a spokeswoman of the Cologne police department told the German FAZ daily that police had indeed filed a criminal complaint against von Storch and the MP could now face a probe over public incitement of hatred.

The incident, however, also apparently also became a sort of a rallying call for the AfD politicians, who rushed to defend their fellow party member. The AfD parliamentary faction head, Alice Weidel, was apparently one of the first to express solidarity with von Storch on Twitter – only to be briefly banned as well, after writing that the German authorities “have submitted to the imported, marauding, groping, bruising, knife-stabbing migrant mobs.”

The AfD alongside the two politicians then declared themselves to be the first “victims” of a new German law tackling hate speech in the internet, which came into force on January 1. The law advocated by the German Justice Minister Heiko Maas particularly envisages fines for social media networks amounting to €50 million ($56 million) if they fail to remove hateful content or fake news within 24 hours.

“Now, Alice Weidel also [has been] censored,” von Storch wrote on Twitter, commenting on the issue. “On the first day of the [Social Networks Enforcement Law], a head and a deputy head of the AfD parliamentary faction have been finished off,” she added.

“Attempts to censor Beatrix von Storch & Alice Weidel, the two leading AfD members in the Bundestag [the lower house of the German parliament] actually backfired,” the AfD wrote on its Twitter page, adding that the number of its followers on Twitter reached almost 100,000 while the number of those following its parliamentary faction’s page has risen to 10,000.

Support for the AfD has also come from right-wing populists from abroad. Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch populist Party for Freedom, expressed his solidarity with von Storch and called on Twitter to “stop censoring.”

The public reaction to the incident on social media was mixed. While some people said that the MP was rightfully banned for being an “unabashed racist,” others accused Twitter of censorship and even argued in defense of her remarks.

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