Germany vows internet crackdown amid smartphone app test

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Józef Šef said the lives of 8,000 people were “ruined” after police pulled a plug on the app German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the work of software specialist Józef Šef …

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Józef Šef said the lives of 8,000 people were “ruined” after police pulled a plug on the app

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the work of software specialist Józef Šef on Tuesday as he made a final attempt to show his latest anti-abuse app could be used to hold online abusers to account.

The app was halted by the authorities, following criticism from human rights groups and a Facebook ban.

But Mr Šef said he was “so very proud” of his work.

The app allows users to flag content deemed against the law on Facebook, Twitter and Google.

No warnings are given before any such activity happens.

The parties that are government coalition agreed on plans to bring in stronger laws against abusive behaviour when it comes to the internet in a deal that helps their party to retain power.

In July, the Conservative junior coalition partners AfD and the CDU proposed the creation of a commission on the internet to form a “commission of experience” to review how things could be done differently.

But observers say that they are unlikely to look at the issues that are now under scrutiny in Germany, and could instead choose to hit Facebook and Twitter with large fines.

A meeting to discuss the issues of online abuse and cybercrime is set to take place on Wednesday in Berlin.

Support for such a commission fell short of the necessary signatures for it to proceed, with some parties saying they did not support the “bigger” organisation.

But the idea has been endorsed by Facebook and Twitter.

About 8,000 people were caught up in the app’s suspension, after the Ministry of the Interior in Berlin ordered its takedown on October 25.

For three weeks, people could report hate speech to a page Józef Šef created, and it would be manually reviewed by a network of judges and authorised prosecutors.

According to the article on the app that was taken down, it promised to notify the rightful owners.

But Google said in a statement it had asked for this to be removed.

“If it simply redirects users to third-party anti-hate crime tools, then it’s not blocking any speech and we don’t think it violates our terms,” the company said.

Privacy watchdogs in Germany have said they will investigate the app’s intended use by police in cases that require the use of surveillance equipment.

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