German authorities have made quite a name for themselves over the past several years by walking the fine line, and critics say sometimes crossing it, between protecting citizens' freedom of speech, and censoring them for “online speech.”
So is it really surprising that, in the wake of scandalous revelations about Covid (and elections) related collaboration, or some would say, collusion between US government and Big Tech, something of the kind was also happening in Germany?
Some German politicians, like Vice President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Kubicki from the FDP party, seem to be. Kubicki is now demanding “clarification” of what was going on, recalling free speech-related Article 5 of the German Constitution, and asking that citizens be informed whether the former government, led by Angela Merkel, violated the country's top legal document.
The charge here, as reported by German media, is that German officials and representatives of US tech corporations held meetings on several occasions, including secretly, to talk about censoring Covid-related information.
The Bild newspaper writes that there was a secret “summit” in early June 2020, initiated by the government and attended by representatives of Facebook (and Instagram) as well as Google (and YouTube).
The meeting sought to “clarify how the challenge can be met in principle” – and the “challenge” was, as the name given to the gathering explains, “The coronavirus pandemic and the spread of misinformation, false information and disinformation that can be observed in this context.”
Germany has a provision in its Constitution that is supposed to guarantee free speech: Article 5, which states that “every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures, and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources.”
Interestingly, the meeting was organized at Germany's Interior (police) Ministry, with participation of officials from other ministries as well, including healthcare and foreign affairs. On behalf of the government itself its spokesman and Merkel's close associate, Steffen Seibert, showed up.
And, according to Bild, so did a number of lobbyists for the US corporations.
This “fine” mix of elite power and elite money reportedly produced “no resolutions.” At least, that's what the German government now claims, while other than that this secret meeting took place – along with many public ones – the paper is unable to say what the government's demands regarding “Covid misinformation” had been, and if Google and Facebook (Meta) caved in.
But those like Kubicki want those clarifications.
“Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that there was a possible influence on Twitter and co. not only in the US, but also in this country,” he is quoted as saying.