Hate on the Net can be effectively combated by well-crafted legal norms, trained authorities and cooperation with Internet services.
The tragic death of Lisa-Maria Kellermayer⌗
The case of Lisa-Maria Kellermayer has caused international attention:
The Upper Austrian police had not only misjudged the situation, but through their police spokesperson had imputed profiling intentions](https://twitter.com/florianklenk/status/1542761620446879746) to the victim in a [gloating manner and accused her of false reporting.
She did not receive adequate police protection and became the target of fanatical vaccination opponents.
Lisa-Maria Kellermayer not only had to close her practice because of the threat to her safety and the apparent failure of the authorities to ensure her safety, the lack of protection drove her to suicide in late July 2022.
Nikolaus Forgo pointed out in ZIB 2 of August 4, 2022 some failures and pointed out the lack of legal prudence with regard to EU law, which make the Austrian Hate on the Net Fighting Act - HiNBG look pale in the case of Lisa-Maria Kellermeyer. As can be seen now at the latest, it promised too much1 without crafting what it promised and making it logically implementable2.
Here follow three obvious and simple action points to effectively combat hate online.
1. Sharpen legal statutes (Clear Jurisdiction)⌗
While it is true that law enforcement on the Internet and the darknet is not easy. However, neither is a legal vacuum.
The prerequisite for action on the Internet is the existence of quite ordinary legal facts. Surprisingly, there seems to be a lack of suitable simple criminal offenses for the correct recording and prosecution of such hate crimes.
Unclear local jurisdiction⌗
In fact, the place of sending the hate mail (from Germany) was considered by the Austrian criminal authorities to be the reason for their lack of jurisdiction – and therefore nothing further was done. In spite of the multiple cruel death threats, there is a discussion among lawyers still (!!!) with reference to various legal commentaries, whether the authorities could have acted earlier!
➔ If even top lawyers still argue afterwards, it is not surprising that simple police authorities remained inactive. Thus some facts belong renovated and/or new ones introduced, in order to create here from the outset legal clarity.
Jurisdiction only by death⌗
It can hardly be surpassed in absurdity that the public prosecutor’s office in Wels only considers itself competent through the death of Ms. Doctor Kellermayer and became active.
➔ If this should indeed turn out to be in accordance with the law, it will obviously have to be changed quickly.
No insult possible through insulting e-mails⌗
Furthermore, the criminal offense of insult under Section 115 of the Criminal Code requires the presence of several persons, so that a simple e-mail, no matter how severe and heinous the threats it may contain, is not sufficient for this purpose.
➔ Serious insult must also be punishable as such by e-mail.
No defamation of deceased persons⌗
Finally, vituperation and mockery of deceased persons are not punishable because the criminal offense of defamation against deceased persons has been abolished.
➔ The vituperation of deceased persons must be punishable again.
It is difficult to comprehend and in no way excusable that there are such regulatory loopholes at the core of the rule of law. This is simply a technical failure of legal policy and definitely not a problem of Internet invulnerability or technical limitations.
2. Train police authorities (Executive Awareness)⌗
In view of the reaction of the police authorities in Upper Austria, it can be assumed that the training of police officers in Austria is by no means better than in Germany.
There, Jan Böhmermann tested and examined police failure and lack of awareness in a quasi experiment, with a disastrous result. Officers demanded ID cards instead of recording the reports anonymously or simply rejected the reports a limine because of alleged lack of jurisdiction or lack of criminal liability.
➔ Instead of creating a new authority, the existing officers on the ground need to be focused and prudently trained in direct contact with the population and strengthened with persons trained in specific areas.
3. Implement legal measures in exchange with social media providers (Digital Governance)⌗
It is evident from this list that the possible tardiness or lack of accessibility of social media providers comes only in third place. If there is already a lack of meaningful criminal offenses and technically knowledgeable authorities, it does not seem justifiable to blame these providers first or to hold them liable regardless of EU rules.
➔ It would be better to involve the Internet service providers in an open cooperative dialogue and to create common mechanisms supported by expertise, instead of propagating direct harsh legal measures (or even stupid automatic filters), which lack expertise to boot…
Obituary for Lisa-Maria Kellermayer⌗
Unfortunately, this all comes too late for Lisa-Maria Kellermayer, if it comes at all. The ignorance and insubstantiality of the reactions of Austrian politicians unfortunately does not suggest that anything will improve here.
With correct criminal offenses, trained representatives of the authorities, and proactive digital governance, hate on the net can be effectively combated.