The Germans have only themselves to blame for this: their words are ridiculously long to be even read, let alone remembered by anyone other than a native speaker.
By Iffy Kukkoo
22 Oct, 2017
Not too many German words have ever trended during the Information Age. The Germans have only themselves to blame for this: their words are ridiculously long to be even read, let alone remembered by anyone other than a native speaker. So long, in fact, that – as Mark Twain once quipped – some of them have their own perspective. Indeed, the 27-lettered word (yeah, we had to count too) we are interested in offers a fresh and new perspective about an old and thorny issue. That’s one of the reasons why, by the end of this year, you will be able to pronounce “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” as swiftly and as trippingly as “network enforcement law”. But, for now, we’ll save you the trouble from skipping a word every other sentence, and we’ll use the abbreviated form “NetzDG”. Because, that one is already trending. And there’s more than one reason why.
On January 14, 2010, Phoebe Prince, a fifteen-year-old girl who had recently moved from Ireland to the United States, was found hanging in the stairwell leading to the second floor of her family’s apartment. Subsequent research uncovered that she decided to commit the suicide after months of insults and verbal assaults had evolved into relentless and constant cyberbullying. It seems that Phoebe Prince found a way to deal with the former, but it was impossible to escape from the latter.
Six years later, an Italian 31-year old woman named Tiziana Cantone, decided to end her life after being forced to deal with a similar problem. After an explicit private video of her shared on WhatsApp went viral, screenshots and memes from the video began circulating on social networks, often featuring her full name in addition to a clear image of her face. Cantone filed legal requests with Yahoo Italy, Facebook Ireland, Google, and YouTube and even won a “right to be forgotten” case against Facebook, but was still ordered to pay ‚¬20,000 in legal costs from the case. She committed suicide shortly afterwards on September 13, 2016.
Just few months before Cantone killed herself because of social media taunting, a French teenager named OcÃ©ane Ebem had become the first person to live-stream her own suicide. Online incitement to suicide has recently become a real cause for concern in Russia where “social media death groups” have triggered a 57 percent increase in teenage suicides.
Propagating murder is another widespread problem. For example, just few days after Gina Miller won a legal case against the UK government’s intention to start the Brexit process without consulting the Parliament, Rhodri Phillips, the 4th Viscount St Davis, offered on Facebook “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first-generation immigrant” – referring, of course, to Miller. Responding to a surge of similar calls published on social media sites (there’s a 20% rise in reports of hate crime during the first quarter of 2017), Alison Saunders, UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, announced plans to treat “online hate crimes just as seriously as those experienced face to face”.
“Hate is hate,” she added in a column, “and online abusers must be dealt harshly.”
The same words could have been written by quite a few German politicians and lawmakers. Instead, they decided to be a bit more aggressive and urgent on the subject – and have already passed a law which can be easily summarized in Saunders’ above-quoted sentence.
It all started in 2015 when Germany’s Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection realized that the content removal teams employed by social media sites are insufficient to deal with hate crimes and criminal incitements.
Two subsequent studies conducted by jugendschutz.net, a transnational centre for internet protection for young people, found out that even though YouTube deleted 90% of the reported criminal content (over 82% within 1 day of the complaint), Facebook deleted or blocked merely 39 out of 100 posts reported by users (33 within a day); most questionably, Twitter deleted only 1% of the messages reported, none of which were deleted during the first 24 hours.
A doctoral dissertation defended at the University of Colorado at Boulder four years ago summarizes the seriousness of the underlying problem clearly: