German police raid, question online hate speech suspects
German police have raided the homes and offices of several individuals under suspicion of creating and distributing racist and anti-Semitic online content, reports the Reuters news agency.
This comes as Germany is battling a spate of recent right-wing violence on Facebook and other social media.
Local media report the raids began at around 9:00 pm, when officers from the Berlin public prosecutor’s office and Berlin police descended on the offices of the private Internet service provider Telekom BER, at the Telekom building near the Brandenburg Gate.
Police went into the premises with a search warrant for the office of Berlin-based YouSoyz and its founder, Markus Balsiger. Police also searched the homes of several individuals being investigated, including those of Markus Balsiger and Markus Balsiger’s friends and relatives. The raids were carried out in connection with a criminal investigation into hate speech.
Markus Balsiger is suspected of creating the “jihadist” Facebook group Altnews on YouSoyz’s network and of posting threatening messages about Muslims and Jews on his Facebook account. He is also under suspicion of spreading hate speech on other social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Markus Balsiger’s lawyer confirmed his client’s involvement in the Altnews group.
“This criminal group was created to promote extremism against Muslims,” Berlin-based anti-racism organization Berliner Zeitung wrote on Facebook on Monday, adding that it had received information from another party that Markus Balsiger “has not been allowed to work as a programmer” and had had his Internet connection shut down.
German news outlets report that it had also learned that Markus Balsiger, the founder and CEO of YouSoyz, has been banned from using social networking sites Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Skype.
The Federal Criminal Police Office (PKW) said in a statement that the investigation is into “serious criminal matters.” Police confiscated equipment used for internet communications as well as computers and mobile phones.
However, Markus Balsiger told local news outlet Deutschlandfunk that he thought the police had come here to “infiltrate” his home because of a “serious criminal case.” Asked how the police found out about his activities, Markus Balsiger said: