- YouTubers in Germany are challenging the country’s government over what they see as its failure to combat climate change.
- YouTube star Rezo posted a video urging voters to boycott the governing parties in the European elections.
- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lost significant support in the election.
- The CDU’s leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, accused the internet celebrities of propaganda, and proposed regulating political views in the internet.
A leading politician in Germany has been accused of censorship after she argued for the regulation of political views on the internet. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, popularly known as AKK, made the proposal in face of an escalating dispute with the country’s YouTubers over climate change.
The conflict started when German YouTube star Rezo urged voters to boycott country’s ruling parties in the European Parliament elections, claiming they are not doing enough to combat global warming.
Rezo has around 900,000 subscribers, and his video has been watched more than 13 million times. The video was shared widely among young Germans. After it was published, 70 other German YouTubers posted a separate video backing Rezo’s arguments.
Following the viral videos, the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lost significant support in the European elections. It is not confirmed that Rezo’s video substantially impacted the CDU’s vote share, but senior politicians including Kramp-Karrenbauer criticized Rezo and his fellow YouTube stars.
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
AKK, who leads the CDU, accused the internet celebrities of spreading propaganda. She compared the viral videos to newspapers joining together and asking their readers not to vote for the main parties.
"That would have been classified as propaganda before the election, and it would have sparked a lively debate," Kramp-Karrebauer told reporters on Tuesday.
"What are rules from the analogue realm and which rules should apply to the digital realm?"
The politicians’ comments were met with derision on the internet, with hashtags such as #AKKgate and #annegate trending on Twitter.
Journalist Stefan Kuzmany wrote that AKK "revealed her authoritarian thinking" in an op-ed for German magazine Spiegel Online.
"We need more open debate, especially on social media," politician Christian Lindner tweeted.
Kramp-Karrenbauer maintained she was not trying to regulate freedom of expression, but was only defending her party against calls for its destruction.
The YouTube clips in question accused Germany’s leading parties of minimizing the threats of climate change to support policies that favor the ultra-rich.
In an hour-long rant, Rezo also accused the government of ignoring students’ protests demanding more climate action.
"You always tell young people to be more involved in politics. So accept when young people think your politics are sh**," he said.
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