Hate crime: this is how you can defend yourself

The author Sibel Schick has launched an online petition to better protect victims of hate crime. It has been attacked for years – and not just on the Internet.

The tone on the net has never been as aggressive as now. And hatred hits women who express themselves politically particularly violently. Some, like the author Margarete Stokowski, dare to speak publicly about the death threats. Others try to act against their trolls under civil law, but often fail to prove the illegality of the postings, as Renate Künast is currently experiencing. Still others endure the agitation, withdraw. Like the Saxon Mayor Martina Angermann, who recently resigned.

How can hate crime be tackled? Startled by the murder of Kassel government president Walter Lübcke, the government has now submitted two bills. The author Sibel Schick, herself a frequent target of agitation attacks, falls short. She launched a petition in December demanding, among other things, tougher punishments and a clear approach against "doxing": trolls research the personal data of their victims and put them online. With scary consequences, as Schick has experienced.

BRIGITTE: In 2018 your data was doxed. How did that happen?

Sibel Schick: A blogger had published an angry text about me on faz.net and linked it to my Twitter account and the website of the club where I was working. That mobilized thousands against me. First there was a shit storm on Twitter with suicide calls. Then angry men called the club and the ministries that fund the club complained about me. Months later I got tons of advertisements and food delivered to my home even though I hadn't ordered anything.

So the trolls knew where you lived.

Yes. I don't know how they found out. But when something like this happens, you panic. Nothing is more frightening than when someone who thinks you'd better be dead knows where you sleep at night.

Did you go to the police?

No. I thought: Bring nothing anyway. Today I know: That's right. The policemen I dealt with in later hate campaigns were nice. But they didn't check how the trolls are connected, how a mass attack works, how to identify the perpetrators. Almost all of the advertisements that I submitted were discontinued: the author of the threats could not be identified. Once I did my own research and found the real name and location. But of course that takes time that the officials do not have because they are so understaffed. If we want to fight hate crime, it has to change urgently. A draft law is currently under discussion that will oblige network providers to pass on reported death threats and IP addresses directly to the Federal Criminal Police Office.

Would that help?

Not if there are too few staff there. In addition: I do not want that theoretically every IP address can be reported to the BKA. The Network Enforcement Act has been in force since 2017, and you can clearly see that such measures can also take the wrong people: After that, it is sufficient for users to report certain accounts to the network provider so that they are deleted. In the meantime, however, trolls mainly use this to eliminate people with different opinions.

The law is now to be improved.

Yes, the users should be able to take action against the decisions of the network providers more easily. It's good. But one basic problem remains: All the innovations that are being discussed now define "hate crime" too vaguely. For example, misogyny does not appear as a criterion. Studies have shown that women are increasingly being targeted. It hits people like me particularly hard, who are marginalized in several ways, not only by their gender, but also, for example, by their supposed origin or their sexual identity. That should be reflected much more in the laws.

What helped you most in the attack itself?

The reaction of other users who noticed that I was attacked. They showed public solidarity and offered help. So I learned that there were many similar experiences with the blogger and that I was dealing with a phenomenon called "Sifftwitter", a mob that specifically picks people out to get them ready. I myself therefore showed no reaction to the attack, that would only have animated the trolls.

Have you been more careful since then?

Not on the net. That's why I keep getting threats, often formulated so that everyone knows what is meant, but you can't do anything legally. "Into the glass" instead of "Into the gas". But in real life I pay more attention. I received several death threats last year and reported about it in an interview. A person in public life then gave me advice from a private security service. That helped. Also that I have recently been supported by the HateAid organization. They show the hate postings on my behalf.

It almost sounds like solidarity and civil courage are more effective than new laws.

Everything has to happen at the same time. Stricter penalties could deter. And if the state set up a fund for affected people, for example, people like me could provide financial support if trolls do their address or job and therefore they have to change their place of residence or job.

Sibel Schick, 34, was born in Turkey, moved to Germany in 2009 and now lives in Leipzig. As a writer, youtuber and podcaster, she is primarily concerned with feminism and racism. On the WeAct platform, she demands stricter punishments for trolls, agitators and haters.

Would you like to read more about the topic and exchange ideas with other women? Then check out the "Addiction, Violence and Abuse Forum" BRIGITTE community past!

Get the BRIGITTE as a subscription – with many advantages. Here you can order them directly.