Court rejects backdated Hartz IV welfare increase

Welfare recipients hoping for a windfall from the current review of Hartz IV unemployment benefits are set for disappointment after Germany's highest court ruled Thursday that any hike should not be backdated.

Court rejects backdated Hartz IV welfare increase
Keep demonstrating... Photo: DPA

The Karlsruhe-based Constitutional Court knocked back an application from a North Rhine-Westphalian couple who argued they should be reimbursed for six months in 2005 when they were systematically underpaid.

The same court ruled in February that the government had to revise the way payments to 6.5 million Hartz IV recipients were calculated. The present method of calculation breached the constitution, the court said.

In the new case, the claimants, a couple from the city of Bottrop in North Rhine-Westphalia, claimed retroactive payments for the period between January and June 2005, when they were on long-term unemployment benefits.

During this time, they were receiving €814.95 a month – €311 each in unemployment benefits plus €192.95 between them for housing and heating. In their complaint, they claimed they should receive an extra €564.30 per month in backdated payments for this period.

The court disagreed, saying the government could continue using the present, unconstitutional system of payments until a new system was introduced.

Furthermore, new “hardship” regulations established by the previous ruling, could not be applied retrospectively, the court decided.

Their couple’s case had previously been rejected by another federal court.

As a result of the February ruling, the government must undertake a massive review of the current system by the end of the year.

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French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.