An Experiment to Stop Online Abuse Falls Short in Germany

Despite having one of the world’s toughest laws against online hate speech and harassment, Germany has struggled to contain toxic content ahead of its Sept. 26 election.

Scrolling through her social media feed, Laura Dornheim is regularly stopped cold by a new blast of abuse aimed at her, including from people threatening to kill or sexually assault her. One person last year said he looked forward to meeting her in person so he could punch her teeth out.

Ms. Dornheim, a candidate for Parliament in Germany’s election on Sunday, is often attacked for her support of abortion rights, gender equality and immigration. She flags some of the posts to Facebook and Twitter, hoping that the platforms will delete the posts or that the perpetrators will be barred. She’s usually disappointed.

“There might have been one instance where something actually got taken down,” Ms. Dornheim said.

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