Germany: Return Of The Stasi Police State?

Authored by Judith Bergman via The Gatestone Institute,

  • Germany’s new law requires social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to censor their users on behalf of the government. Social media companies are obliged to delete or block any online “criminal offenses” within 24 hours of receipt of a user complaint — regardless of whether the content is accurate or not.
  • Social media platforms now have the power to shape the form of current political and cultural discourse by deciding who will speak and what they will say.
  • Notice the ease with which the police chief mentioned that he had filed charges to silence a leading political opponent of the government. That is what authorities do in police states: Through censorship and criminal charges, they silence outspoken critics and political opponents of government policies, such as Beatrix von Storch, who has sharply criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policies.
  • While such policies would doubtless have earned the German authorities many points with the old Stasi regime of East Germany, they more than likely contravene the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to which Germany is a party, as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Germany’s new censorship law, which has introduced state censorship on social media platforms, came into effect on October 1, 2017. The new law requires social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to censor their users on behalf of the German state. Social media companies are obliged to delete or block any online “criminal offenses” such as libel, slander, defamation or incitement, within 24 hours of receipt of a user complaint — regardless of whether the content is accurate or not. Social media companies are permitted seven days for more complicated cases. If they fail to do so, the German government can fine them up to 50 million euros for failing to comply with the law.

The new censorship law, however, was not fully enforced until January 1, 2018, in order to give the social media platforms time to prepare for their new role as the privatized thought police of the German state. Social media platforms now have the power to shape the form of current political and cultural discourse by deciding who will speak and what they will say.

On January 1, 2018, however, the law was immediately enforced. Twitter began by suspending the account of the deputy leader of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), Beatrix von Storch, for 12 hours, after she tweeted the following in response to a New Year’s greeting issued in Arabic by the Cologne Police:

“What the hell is happening in this country? Why is an official police site tweeting in Arabic? Do you think it is to appease the barbaric, gang-raping hordes of Muslim men?”

(During New Year’s Eve of 2015/16, over 1,000 mainly Muslim men sexually assaulted around 1,200 women in Cologne.)

Von Storch also had her Facebook account suspended for repeating her tweet there. Facebook told her that her post contravened German law, as it constituted “incitement to hatred”.

It did not stop there. Cologne police filed charges against von Storch for “incitement to hatred”, which is punishable under section 130 of the German Criminal Code. According to the Cologne police chief, Uwe Jacob, multilingual tweets at major events are an important part of the police’s communication strategy:

“The campaign was really well received by most people – however, some were bothered by the fact that we tweeted in Arabic and Farsi – they were very prominent right-wingers, who then felt that they had to make tweets that incited to hatred. We simply filed charges”.

Notice the ease with which the police chief mentioned that he had filed charges to silence a leading political opponent of the government. That is what authorities do in police states: Through censorship and criminal charges, they silence outspoken critics and political opponents of government policies, such as von Storch, who has sharply criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policies.

While such policies would doubtless have earned the German authorities many points with the old Stasi regime of East Germany, they more than likely contravene the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to which Germany is a party, as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers…

2. The exercise of these freedoms… may be subject to such… restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

In its case law, the European Court of Human Rights has stated that Article 10

“…protects not only the information or ideas that are regarded as inoffensive but also those that offend, shock or disturb; such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness without which there is no democratic society. Opinions expressed in strong or exaggerated language are also protected”.

Even more important in the context of charges against politicians is the fact that according to the European Court of Human Rights’ case law:

“…the extent of protection depends on the context and the aim of the criticism. In matters of public controversy or public interest, during political debate, in electoral campaigns… strong words and harsh criticism may be expected and will be tolerated to a greater degree by the Court”.

When leading politicians are criminally charged for questioning the actions of the authorities, such as in this case the actions of the police, we are no longer dealing with a democracy, but with a regular police state.

Several other accounts on Twitter and Facebook were also suspended under the new censorship law in the first days and weeks of January. One such Twitter account was the satirical magazine, Titanic, which was blocked for parodying von Storch’s tweet about the “barbaric hordes” of Muslim men. The privatized Twitter thought police, in their eagerness to censor, had overlooked that Titanic was just poking fun. The suspension of the Titanic account alerted some politicians — a mere three months after the law went into force — to the problematic nature of the law. Leader of the Green party, Simone Peter and Secretary-General of the FDP, Nicola Beer were both critical of the law. “The law is messed up and must be replaced by a decent one”, Beer said.

Another politician, Martin Sichert, AfD member of the Bundestag for Nürnberg and state Chairman for the AfD, had a Facebook post deleted for violating “community standards”. In the post, which he substantiated with links to factual sources, he drew attention, among other things, to the way women are treated in Afghanistan. He also drew attention to the sexual abuse of small children in Afghanistan:

“It is scary and at the same time shameful that our state is preventing the enlightenment of citizens by simply censoring factual opinions, publicly available citations and links to reputable sources.”

Sichert and von Storch are just the most famous people to have their speech shut down on social media. There are countless others, whose stories never reach the media.

Under the censorship law, anyone can ask a social network operator to delete postings, even if the post does not affect him personally in any way. If the social network provider does not respond within 24 hours, the person wishing to have a post deleted can involve the Federal Office of Justice; there is even a form for this purpose on the homepage of the Federal Office of Justice. This office is responsible for the prosecution of violations, and the district court of Bonn is the sole authority permitted to examine disputes about the criminal liability of comments made on social media and to impose fines on the social media companies for failing to delete those comments within the required 24 hours.

It is regrettable that Germany, which can barely keep up with the terrorism threat and the wave of violent crime, is spending such vast resources on shutting down the free speech of its citizens on social media. The Federal Department of Justice has rented additional offices in Bonn to house approximately 50 new lawyers and administrators to implement the new law and ensure that the social media providers delete “offending posts” within 24 hours. “It was also important that we created a new file management system,” explains Thomas W. Ottersbach of the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn.

“This is the only way to ensure that deadlines are met and that a statistical evaluation can be carried out. Because it is important that we keep an eye on which [social media] operator’s complaints are piling up and where they are just isolated cases.”

The old German police state is back.

Paul Craig Roberts Warns “The Russiagate Stakes Are Extreme”

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

The Republicans’ delay in releasing the summary of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russiagate investigation is giving weight to the presstitutes’ claim that the report is not being released, because it is a hack attempt at a Trump coverup that is not believable. Only Republicans are stupid enough to put themselves in such a situation.

Readers ask me why the summary memo is not released if it is real. There must be some reasons besides the stupidity of Republicans. Yes, that is so. Among the many reasons that might be blocking release are:

1) Republicans are very national security conscious. They don’t want to provide precedents for the release of classified information.

2) Many Republican congressional districts host installations of the military/security complex. Upsetting a large employer and directing campaign financing to a challenger is a big consideration.

3) The George W. Bush/Dick Cheney regime was a neoconservative regime. One consequence is that Republicans are influenced by neoconservatives who stress the alleged “Russian threat.”

4) The Israel Lobby can unseat any member of the House and Senate. The Israel Lobby is allied with the neoconservatives and this alliance intends to keep the US militarily active against perceived threats to Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East and against Russia, which supports Syria and Iran, countries perceived as threats by Israel.

5) Many Republicans are themselves invested in false Russiagate allegations against Trump and would like to replace him with Pence. Other Republicans believe that Trump is undermining Washington’s expensively-purchased foreign alliances and, thereby, undermining US power.

Many Americans do not seem to understand what is at stake. What America is confronted with is a coup conspiracy organized by top officials of the Obama Justice Department, FBI, CIA, the Hillary DNC, and the presstitute media to overturn the result of a democratic election and remove the president from office. The basis of the coup is a fake dossier purchased for money that consists of unsupported allegations against Trump and that was used to obtain warrants from the FISA count to spy on Trump and various associates hoping to find something that can be used against Trump. Regardless, the false allegations could be fed to the CIA’s media assets and used to create a scandal requiring a special prosecutor to investigate Russiagate.

Once the investigation was under way, the presstitutes kept the scandal alive hoping to convince enough Americans that Trump must have done something—“where there is smoke, there is fire”—that justifies his removal. It worked against Richard Nixon, but not against Ronald Reagan, and Trump is no Reagan.

 

If the highest reaches of the police state agencies can get away with an attempted or successful coup against the president of the United States, then that is the complete end of democracy and all accountability in government. The House, Senate, and judiciary will become as powerless as the Roman senate under the caesars. We will live under a dictatorship ruled by police state agencies.

Many Americans say they don’t need the House Intelligence Report, because they don’t believe the Russiagate BS in the first place. They miss the point. They need the report, because those responsible for this attempt at a coup must be identified, charged, and prosecuted for their act of high treason.

This is not minor stuff. This goes to the heart of whether any form of liberty will exist. We all know that the ability of the people to hold government accountable is not assured by democracy. However, there is no prospect of holding government accountable if it is a police state, a road that the US has been going down for some time. The audacious coup attempt against President Trump is our opportunity to stop the momentum to a police state.

Despite my recent postings, many people do not understand that the somewhat redacted FISA court document that has been declassified and released and explained by myself, William Binney, and former US Attorney Joe di Genova contains admissions by the FBI and DOJ that they improperly spied and obtained warrants from the court under false pretenses. In other words, we have it on the authority of the FISA court itself that the FBI and DOJ have admitted to the court their transgressions. When Department of Justice (sic) congressional liaison Stephen Boyd says the DOJ is “unaware of any wrongdoing,” he is lying through his teeth. The DOJ has already confessed its wrongdoing to the FISA court.

(See Lendman on Boyd’s claim that releasing the memo would harm national security and ongoing investigations. This is always the claim made when government has to cover up its crimes. )

When Admiral Rodgers, director of the National Security Agency, discovered that the FBI and DOJ were misusing the spy system for partisan political reasons, he let it be known that he was going to inform the FISA court. This caused the FBI and DOJ to rush to the court in advance and confess to “mistakes” and to promise to tighten up procedures so as not to make mistakes in the future. It is these “mistakes” and corrections that the FISA court document reveals.

In other words, the information already exists in the pubic domain that proves that Russiagate was a conspiracy organized for the purpose of bringing down the elected president of the United States.

A case can be made that it would be just as well if the coup succeeds as it would bring an end to Washington’s cover as the government of a great democracy with liberty and justice for all. Most other governments, and one would hope certainly the Russian and Chinese governments, would see the coup as America’s final transition into a police state and give up their utopian ideas of reaching accommodation with Washington. The constraints on Washington’s ability to bully the world would be greatly strengthened by the universal perception that the government of the United States had devolved into a police state.

The Era Of AI-Generated ‘Fake Porn’ Has Arrived

They call them “deepfakes.”

It’s the term for pornography made using artificial intelligence-assisted technology to superimpose a person’s face on another performer’s body – essentially allowing the producer to create fake porn featuring celebrities, politicians or even average every people.

In a report published Wednesday, Motherboard recounted how they discovered a user on Reddit responsible for producing convincing porn videos featuring celebrities like Gal Gadot, Maisie Williams and Taylor Swift.

Pretty soon, the technology used to create “deepfakes” will be widely available enough to be used by extortionists and criminals with only a cursory understanding of how the software works. Another redditor discovered by Motherboard even created an app specifically designed to allow users without a computer science background to create AI-assisted fake porn. All the tools one needs to make these videos are free, readily available, and accompanied with instructions that walk novices through the process.

Two months ago, the first redditor mentioned above created a subreddit dedicated to the practice.

In that short time, the subreddit has already amassed more than 15,000 subscribers. Within the community, the word “deepfake” itself is now a noun for the kinds of neural-network generated fake videos their namesake pioneered, according to Motherboard.

Another “deepfake” auteur created an app called FakeApp, a user-friendly application that allows anyone to recreate these videos with their own datasets. The app is based on deepfakes’ algorithm, but another user who goes by deepfakeapp created FakeApp without the help of the original deepfakes. While none of these people divulged their identity to Motherboard, the user known as Deepfakeapp said in a direct message that his goal with creating FakeApp was to make deepfakes’ technology available to people without a technical background or programming experience.

“I think the current version of the app is a good start, but I hope to streamline it even more in the coming days and weeks,” he said. “Eventually, I want to improve it to the point where prospective users can simply select a video on their computer, download a neural network correlated to a certain face from a publicly available library, and swap the video with a different face with the press of one button.”

Peter Eckersley, chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, fears the technology will soon reach the point where fakes are virtually indistinguishable for authentic videos.

“I think the current version of the app is a good start, but I hope to streamline it even more in the coming days and weeks,” he said. “Eventually, I want to improve it to the point where prospective users can simply select a video on their computer, download a neural network correlated to a certain face from a publicly available library, and swap the video with a different face with the press of one button.”

Fakes posted in the subreddit have already been pitched as real on other websites; a deepfake of Emma Watson taking a shower was uploaded by CelebJihad, a celebrity porn site that regularly posts hacked celebrity nudes, as a “never-before-seen video” purportedly from the user’s “private collection.”

 

Fake

Here’s an example of a “deepfake”

Other redditors have taken video trained from celebrities’ Instagram accounts and used it to convincingly fake Snapchat messages.

“Deepfakes” are hardly a new phenomenon. Last July, we reported on a project conducted by Stanford’s Matthias Niessner that managed to create several faked videos of former US President Barack Obama.

Soon, this technology could create problems for everybody, from governments, to corporations to the news media – which will now find it even more difficult to distinguish veritable “Fake News” from reality.