People attend a candle light memorial at Stephansplatz for Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, the deceased Austrian doctor who closed her practice after she reported receiving death threats from opponents of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccines in Vienna, Austria on August 1, 2022. - Dr Lisa-Maria Kellermayr took her own life because of the death threats and hostilities in the corona virus pandemic. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

She was a doctor, campaigned for compulsory masks and corona vaccinations. She appeared on television, was active on social media. She received death threats and had to close her practice because she could no longer afford the security measures.

Now the Austrian Lisa-Maria Kellermayr took her own life. She was 36 years old, left three suicide notes. Their adversaries, radical opponents of vaccination, reacted with further agitation. Anyone who reads their entries looks down into mental abysses.

Self-government, telematics, Morbi-RSA: The briefing on health

The motivation for suicide is often very complex. Nevertheless, it can hardly be denied that Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was also a victim of digital violence. She suffered from the hostilities and was afraid. That’s how it is for many. Since news of her death, several celebrities who are also in the crosshairs of a mob have withdrawn from social media.

It’s grotesque: while Russia is raging in Ukraine, forest fires and floods are evidence of climate change, and the whole of Europe is stuck in a corona, energy and inflation crisis, people are spending their time chasing other people. At least virtually.

There is mobbed and scolded, rushed and slandered. The dynamic that triggers this is unpredictable. Anyone can be struck by a thousand bolts of rage overnight. Sometimes the storm moves on, sometimes it intensifies.

Social media is not a legal vacuum. What is meant is that they should not be legally free. The civilized users have in mind a kind of space for discourse free of domination, which is characterized by mutual respect, by allowing people to speak up, listening and weighing things up. But this dream is naive. The public is diverse and actionist. The privilege of access that journalists and politicians once enjoyed has disappeared. Anyone who registers with Twitter must be able to stand publicity. This includes cynical, sarcastic and polemical comments. Community includes meanness. Freedom of expression must be defended.

But it ends where criminal law begins. What is forbidden in the real world must also be banned from the virtual one. Calls for murder, insults, defamation, hate speech, the approval of crimes, the dangerous dissemination of “enemy lists” with personal data: criminal law has been tightened in recent years.

At the latest since the assassination of the Kassel District President Walter Lübcke in June 2019, sensitivity to the topic of hate crime on the Internet has increased significantly.

Not least because of their own dismay, many politicians have come to realize that the causal chain from word to deed, from agitation to action, must be broken at an early stage. This applies both nationally and internationally.

Four weeks ago, the EU Parliament passed stricter requirements for the internet platforms of the internet giants. You have to take stronger action against hate and fake news, delete terror propaganda faster.

In Germany, this is to be achieved through the Network Enforcement Act. However, there is a problem with its implementation at a crucial point.

It was originally intended that the platform providers would report potentially criminal content, including the IP address, to an office at the Federal Criminal Police Office from February 2022. However, the Internet companies sued and were right for data protection reasons. Now the thing is hanging. It is high time to seek legal clarification.

Bans are intended to deter. If violations of them go unpunished, they lose their deterrent effect. “You’re welcome to threaten lawyers,” wrote one to Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, “but you won’t get me. Instead, I have now decided to get you.” Nobody in a constitutional state should have to put up with that.