Governing Hate Content Online: How the Rechtsstaat Shaped the Policy Discourse on the NetzDG in Germany

Danya He


States around the world are struggling with illegal and hate content online. As one of the first Western democracies to do so, Germany passed the Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks (NetzDG) to tackle illegal and hate content online. The idea of the Rechtsstaat played a decisive role in the preceding policy discourse. Building on discursive institutionalism, this study analyzes how different actors used the Rechtsstaat to support or oppose the NetzDG. For this, it conducted a thematic analysis of 68 documents produced during the policy-making process in Germany from 2015 to 2017. The study shows that political actors used five different facets of the Rechtsstaat idea to support or oppose the NetzDG.


NetzDG, hate content online, online platform governance, policy discourse, Rechtsstaat, discursive institutionalism

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