Coalition wants to force social networks to release data

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The grand coalition wants to use data from social networks to focus on the effects of disinformation campaigns on the Internet.

"The networks should make their data accessible to scientists," said the vice-chairman of the digital committee, Hansjörg Durz (CSU), the "Handelsblatt" (Monday edition). Disinformation and manipulation on the net are a danger to democracy and public security, warned the CSU politician.

“In order to combat them, we have to understand how opinion is formed on the Internet.” However, the research lacked the necessary data from social networks. “We have to change that,” said Durz. The CSU politician would like to include a corresponding obligation for companies in the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG). The legal policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Johannes Fechner, is also in favor of a research clause: “We want to give researchers access to information,” Fechner told the “Handelsblatt”. However, he believes that the inclusion of such a clause in the NetzDG could trigger a notification at EU level and thus delay the reform by at least half a year. "That is why we are advising on inserting the research clause into the NetzDG in a separate legislative procedure," said Fechner. The Hamburg data protection activist Johannes Caspar considers access to data on social networks for research purposes to be legitimate. Researching disinformation and manipulation represents an “important public interest”. “In this respect, after observing high protection standards, it may be permissible, for example, on a pseudonymised database to carry out corresponding research projects,” Caspar told the “Handelsblatt”. The legislator would have to clarify which data the user is allowed to access and define technical and organizational measures to protect those affected. Possible restrictions on their rights would have to be proportionate.