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Soon no Twitch, Steam, Discord, Twitter for under 16s?

Will young people under 16 in Germany soon no longer be able to use Twitch, YouTube, Discord, Steam, Twitter and similar platforms?

This, or something like it, could be the case, as a draft for a tightening of the network enforcement law was presented today.

For example, the law would then explicitly include gaming platforms if they have more than two million registered users. Registered users, mind you. Not active users! Exactly which platforms this will ultimately affect remains to be seen.

This also applies to the currently applicable § 3, which concerns the handling of complaints about illegal content .

New, however, would be §3a NetzDG with the following content:

(1) Providers of social networks and providers of gaming platforms are obliged to identify users upon registration. Upon identification, social network providers and gaming platform providers shall collect the following information:

1. the name and address of the user and
2. for natural persons, their date of birth.

(2) In the cases referred to in paragraph 1, sentence 2, the identification shall be made in the case of natural persons by means of

1. a valid official identity document containing a photograph of the holder
and with which the passport and identity card obligation is fulfilled in Germany, in particular on the basis of a domestic passport, identity card or passport or identity card substitute recognized or approved in accordance with the provisions of aliens law,
2. an electronic proof of identity pursuant to Section 18 of the Personal ID Card Act, Section 12 of the eID Card Act or Section 78 (5) of the Residence Act,
3. a qualified electronic signature in accordance with Article 3 number 12 of Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC (OJ L 257, 28.8.2014, p. 73); or
4. an electronic identification system notified in accordance with Article 8(2)(c) in conjunction with Article 9 of Regulation (EU) No 910/2014.

Such identification is unlikely to be possible for anyone who does not have an ID card, i.e., almost anyone under the age of 16. This could result in children and young people no longer being able to log on to social networks and gaming platforms because their operators cannot identify them as required by Section 3a of the NetzDG.

But of course it should also deter many other users and it is questionable how these obligations are to be met or whether users then prefer to provide false information and pretend that they do not come from Germany.

Not to mention the limitations of the providers, because even the legislator admits:

As a result of this obligation, a permanent, additional burden on the providers’
social networks and the providers of gaming platforms can be expected, which will
cannot be determined at present. If necessary, such a detailed assessment can only be made after the legal regulation has come into force.

This is because providers must additionally bear the costs of the tests themselves and store the data in compliance with data protection requirements.

Whether everything will turn out that way, of course, remains to be seen. The bill was presented today in the Bundesrat and referred to the Legal, Interior and Economic Committees. Once these have completed their deliberations and drawn up a recommendation for the plenary, the bill returns to the plenary agenda – then to the question of whether the Bundesrat wishes to submit the bill to the German Bundestag.

Let’s hope that this proposal will still be defused, granted large transition periods or other relief will be included. While I am also in favor of fighting hate crime, this bill clearly seems to go overboard.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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