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Ten Questions, Ten Answers

For some months, a groundless campaign has been waged to discredit the work of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, more than anything against our work on hate speech.

The Foundation has been active for almost two decades against right-wing extremism, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia and hate.  In view of the growth of violence against refugees and migrants, the Foundation decided to confront hate speech against refugees on social media.  That alone is reason enough for many to decry us and our work. We have found that certain questions come up again and again, and we have collected the most important of them here.

Does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation delete posts, comments or accounts on Facebook?
No. However, like all users/page owners we reserve the right to remove hateful or attacking comments on our own page if necessary. In this respect we follow Facebook’s Terms of Service.

Does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation compile lists of pages/people whose Facebook/Twitter accounts are to be deleted?

What relationship does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation have with Facebook?
The Amadeu Antonio Foundation is a partner of the “Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI)” founded in 2016 by Facebook. This organization conducts scientific studies of hate speech and its effects online, offers workshops for activists, creators and programmers, and in general seeks to strengthen Facebook’s digital community against hate.

The Foundation usually meets once a year with Facebook to discuss the development of hate speech on their platform. In our meetings with Facebook we have made clear that deleting and banning does not solve anything. Posts/comments/pages that are illegal under Germany’s hate speech laws will be deleted if brought to Facebook’s attention, but this has been Facebook’s policy since before our partnership was initiated. What Facebook does with hurtful, offensive, but legal posts/comments/pages is up to their discretion.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation is constantly mentioned in connection with the “Task Force” of Federal Justice Minister Heiko Maas. What does this task force do, exactly? What role does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation play?
Federal Justice Minister Heiko Maas called together a “Task Force against Hateful Content on the Internet” in October 2015 to discuss possible strategies against racist, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic hate speech on the Internet. Representatives from the Ministry of Justice, various internet corporations and NGOs were invited to take part, among them the Amadeu Antonio Foundation.
The Task Force principally discussed general legal questions: does German law apply to Facebook? What is the appropriate response to illegal activity online? How can internet companies like Facebook, Twitter or Google react to growing hate online?

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation supports a digital culture supportive of minorities and democracy. Our commitment to this principle defined our work with the Task Force and at no time did we advocate for a “campaign of deletion” as an effective reaction to hate speech.

What, exactly, does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation advocate in relation to Internet hate speech?
Targets of hate speech almost always experience an enormous psychological burden. Attacks, doxxing and threats of violence can intimidate people into silence. Comment sections under news articles must sometimes be closed because the deluge of hateful comments or “troll” posts makes normal discussion impossible.

Freedom of speech and opinion must also be upheld for the targets of hate speech. The AAF therefore advocates for hate speech laws to be upheld in the digital realm. If hateful content breaks the law, it should be prosecuted. The AAF also demands that the administrators of social networks stand by their own Terms of Service. It is the height of hypocrisy to pat oneself on the back for an “open and democratic culture of discussion” but ignore user reports and not work to maintain that open and democratic culture. Finally, the AAF calls for individual users of social networks to themselves work for a culture of respect. It is possible to discuss even the most sensitive of topics in a civil manner. The best way for individual users to combat hate speech online is to stand by its victims.

What is the Amadeu Antonio Foundation’s position on freedom of speech?
The AAF considers freedom of speech [Meinungsfreiheit—trans.] a central principle of democracy. In keeping with the German constitution and jurisprudence, the AAF considers the boundaries of free speech to be where its exercise limits the free speech of others. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation neither supports nor advocates for changes to free speech laws.

What does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation consider “hate speech”?
“Hate speech” is a political term. In Germany, the term is fundamentally based on incitement, slander and slurring. The Foundation is of the opinion that “hate speech” becomes criminally relevant when its authors intentionally denigrate a group of people. In this respect, again, the AAF follows the German constitution and jurisprudence. Further explanation can be found in our publication „Geh Sterben! Umgang mit Hate Speech und Kommentaren im Internet“ (in German)

What does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation do against hate speech?
The Amadeu Antonio Foundation has supported a civil digital culture for many years. We have worked with various social networks, including Google, Twitter and Facebook, in one way or another since 2010.

In 2009, the AAF coordinated with Youtube/Google on the “361 Degrees for Tolerance and Respect, against Hate and Violence” competition and again in 2010 on the campaign “Social Networks against Nazis.”

The Foundation publishes handouts  and brochures on the subject of hate speech and resistance thereto. On request, we also advise corporations, schools, or other organizations on hate speech and how to counter its dissemination.

The following publications on hate speech were produced wholly by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation:
Geh sterben! Umgang mit Hate Speech und Kommentaren im Internet (2015)
Monitoringbericht 2015/2016 – Rechtsextreme und menschenverachtende Phänomene im Social Web
Hetze gegen Flüchtlinge in Sozialen Netzwerken – Handlungsempfehlungen (2016)

In cooperation with Facebook:
Aktiv gegen Nazis – Mit einem Klick bist Du dabei (2012)
Aktiv gegen Hassrede mit guten Strategien (2016)

In cooperation with the “Voluntary Self-Control Media”:
Hass in der Demokratie begegnen / Unterrichtseinheiten (seit 2013)

Additionally, hate speech and “counter-speech” are always topics at, a project of the AAF.

I’ve heard that Anetta Kahane worked for the Stasi, is this true?
Yes. Anetta Kahane was recruited in 1974, at the age of 19, as an “informal collaborator.” She ended her work with the Stasi in 1982 of her own accord, which naturally had serious professional and personal negative consequences.

Starting in the early 1980s, Anetta Kahane took up human-rights activism and specifically began advocacy for migrants to the DDR. In this time she was herself spied on and finally applied for permission to leave the country. In 1989/90 she took part in the New Forum on the subject of foreign nationals.

Anetta Kahane has herself strongly stood for the judgement of her time as an informer. In her autobiography, published in 2004, and in numerous interviews she has made clear the personal background leading up to her work with the Stasi, how her attitudes towards the DDR changed and how she views her decisions in the present day. Furthermore, she commissioned an independent report in 2012 to investigate the harm her informant work caused. The report concluded that “The claim that Frau Kahane, in her work with the MfS [Stasi] from 1974 to 1982, brought negative consequences to third parties, is not substantiated by her file, any other delivered files or interviews.”

The full report by Dr. Helmut Müller-Enbergs can be read on our website in the following PDF. (In German)

Besides Dr. Müller-Enberg’s report, Anetta Kahane describes her time as an informant in the following two interviews, one dating to 2004.

Deutschland Radio Kultur: Unswerving Engagement against Rightist Hate (2016)
Interview in TAZ: “I wasn’t made for the DDR”

Anetta Kahane’s employment as an informant was made public years ago. Nevertheless, this information has been propagated as if new and relevant and attached to current debate in order to hinder the work of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. This is often combined with explicit anti-Semitic hate against Frau Kahane as a Jewish woman, particularly from far-right circles but also from certain anti-Semitic leftist groups.

The general swell of hate speech has brought with it an increase in the threats and slander against Anetta Kahane personally. See the following press release from the AAF from April 25, 2016. (In German.)

How does the Amadeu Antonio Foundation reconcile its work with the informant past of Anetta Kahane?
The qualifications of Anetta Kahane as chairperson of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation are based on her expertise, developed over decades, in the realm of minority rights and anti-racist work for the strengthening of a democratic civil society.

Those questioning her fitness for the position refer without exception to her time as an informant up until 1982. What they leave out is the strength of principle required to leave such a position despite the obvious and sever personal and professional penalties she would incur. That she did so does not fit the narrative these people are attempting to construct.

After her break with the Stasi, Anetta was herself spied on, lost her position at the Humboldt-Universität, and was significantly penalized and constrained in her work as a translator. That she began campaigning for human rights and against the DDR’s societal racism at this time was also less than politically opportune.

In 1989, Anetta Kahane initiated a work group of the New Forum in Pankow on the subject of foreign nationals and minorities in the DDR. She took part in the central roundtable of the New Forum on this subject. As a result, she was named foreigner advocate for East Berlin at the beginning of May 1990. This office was concerned principally with the support of refugees and those seeking asylum, but in light of increasingly frequent attacks she had to also develop protection programs for refugees. After the position was merged with that of West Berlin in 1991, Anetta Kahane began the “Regional Posts for Foreigner Inquiries” [Regionalen Arbeitsstellen für Ausländerfragen] with the cooperation of the Freudenberg Foundation. The RAA’s focus lay and lies with education equity, that is, ensuring equal chances for children with and without a migration background.

In view of the growing violence against migrants, but also against nonconforming youths, the homeless and other vulnerable groups, it became ever more clear through the beginning of the 1990s that mere education work would not suffice. Other forms of support against the spread of right-wing extremism were necessary. It was with this in mind that Anetta Kahane founded the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, whose supporters included once again the Freudenberg Foundation. The FF’s leadership was aware of her employment as an informer as early as 1990, reached the same conclusion as that of the Müller-Enbergs report, and since then has supported Anetta Kahane and all team members of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in their engagement for democracy and civil society.

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