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Federal Constitutional Court President: Anonymity on the Internet promotes brutalization

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federal President Stephan Harbarth is concerned about the radicalization of communication on the internet. The constitutional state must remain defensive.


The President of the Federal Constitutional court, Stephan Harbarth (50), is also concerned about the change in social discourse caused by the new media. “Even if they enrich our lives in some respects, they favor the spontaneous, provisional, abridged, and hurtful,” said Harbarth in a speech to the Übersee-Club in Hamburg on Wednesday.

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The anonymity of the Internet promotes brutalization. The success of a contribution is often proportional to the extent of the emotionalisation it causes. “The algorithm opens up filter bubbles and echo chambers and thus creates closed worldviews that contribute to communicative radicalization,” said the President of the Constitutional Court. If members of different chambers and bubbles then meet online or in the analogue world, the extent of the polarization and division becomes apparent. That does not leave the reputation of democratic institutions untouched.

The use of civil liberties could be suitable for delegitimizing the constitutional order, explained Harbarth and emphasized: “The well-fortified constitutional state must consistently oppose the enemies of law and the rule of law.” The Federal Constitutional Court recently stated in its judgment on the Bavarian Constitutional Protection Act that the state has the task of safeguarding the free democratic basic order. A restriction of freedom rights could therefore be legitimate.

Last April 26, the court ruled that the far-reaching powers of the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution partially violated fundamental rights (Az. 1 BvR 1619/17). The judges had thus upheld a lawsuit filed by three members of the Association of People Persecuted by the Nazi Regime – Association of Anti-Fascists (VVN-BdA).

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