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  • Budapest Convention
  • Istanbul Convention
  • Lanzarote Convention
  • Protocol on Xenophobia and Racism

It is important to prevent cyberbullying and online violence. Especially in serious cases, this may also include criminal sanctions in regard to certain forms of conduct. However, the phenomena of cyberbullying and online violence cannot be addressed by criminal law alone, but also require preventive measures and the raise of awareness in society.

Cyberbullying and online violence are characterized by making use of the internet and connected devices. However, the relevant conduct in the area of criminal law is often covered by broader offences that do not require using such devices (e.g. insult, threat or coercion). In these cases, computer devices are mainly used as an instrument to commit traditional offences. This is a well-known development in regard to many traditional offences due to continued digitization in all areas of society.

At least in some cases the conduct in the area of cyberbullying and online violence can also be linked to cybercrime in a narrower sense, involving an infringement of computer devices (e.g. hacking a computer to obtain pictures that are subsequently used for blackmailing). But even in these cases the involved cybercrime offences typically seem to be of a rather instrumental nature, allowing the commission of other and often more severe crimes.

 Cyberharassment, violations of privacy, cybercrime, actual violence


Many areas of law are relevant for the prevention of cyberbullying and cyberviolence. Apart from criminal law, corresponding provisions and rules can be found in civil law (e.g. compensation, removal and injunction), labour law (e.g. warning notice) and administrative law including police law and regulations for service providers (see below). A provision that can be mentioned in particular is section 1 of the Law for the civil law prevention of acts of violence and stalking (Gewaltschutzgesetz), which allows the court to take the necessary measures to prevent further conduct

Criminal Law Provisions

Relevant criminal law provisions in Germany can be, for example, section 238 (Stalking), section 240 (Using threats or force to cause a person to do, suffer or omit an act), section 241 (Threatening the commission of a felony), section 176 (Child abuse), section 185 (Insult), section 186 (Defamation), section 187 (Intentional defamation), section 201 (Violation of the privacy of the spoken word) and section 201a (Violation of intimate privacy by taking photographs) of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch), as well as section 33 of the Law concerning copyright related to works of visual arts and photography (Kunsturhebergesetz).

Section 238 (Stalking) can be mentioned in particular, as it expressively includes conduct by means of telecommunications (para. 1 no. 2) or by using personal data of a person (para. 1 no. 3). The same is true for section 176 (Child abuse) which also expressly covers conduct by means of telecommunications (para. 4 no. 3 and 4).

Regulations for Service Providers

With the recent adoption of the Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks, Germany has introduced compliance obligations for social networks. In particular, social networks are required to remove content that is unlawful under certain provisions of the German Criminal Code within a specific time frame after having been notified about the content. This obligation exists with regard to content fulfilling e.g. section 130 (incitement to hatred), section 241 (threatening the commission of a felony), section 185 (insult), section 186 (defamation), section 187 (intentional defamation), and section 201a (violation of intimate privacy by taking photographs) of the Criminal Code. In connection with this, the act also provides for the possibility to fine social networks up to 50 million Euros for demonstrated systemic shortcomings with fulfilling the compliance obligations. The act therefore, contributes to a healthier environment in social networks and thus helps to contain cyberbullying and cyberviolence. The act shall enter into force on October 1st 2017.

The act also amends section 14 para. 3 to 5 of the German Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz) and provides host providers (such as social networks) with the permission from a data protection perspective to disclose personal data (data relevant for establishing the contractual relationship between user and service provider and usage data) to individuals for the purposes of enforcing civil law claims related to the content mentioned above. The legal grounds for these disclosure requests by individuals, however, are to be found in other relevant legislation, in particular, the German Civil Code.


 Online child sexual exploitation and abuse of children


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 Useful Resources


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Hate crime


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