Outrage over Essen's "denunciation portal" for reporting corona violations
The German city of Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia has stirred up something of controversy this week, after it emerged that it had launched an online portal for people to report their fellow citizens for violating coronavirus restrictions.
Essen creates online portal for reporting coronavirus violations
For some people, the idea was all too chillingly reminiscent of the infamous Stasi secret police and its vast network of citizens-turned-informants: The city of Essen attracted fierce criticism this week, after it released an online portal that enabled residents to report violations of the coronavirus rules.
Under the title, “Reporting a violation of the Coronavirus Ordinance”, the simple online portal allows visitors to fill out a form specifying the place, date, time and type of the violation that they witnessed - for instance, someone not wearing a mask, or staging an illegal event. There’s even the option to upload a photo as accompanying evidence.
Bundestag Vice President says reports create fear and distrust
One of the first to pick up on the story was the Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki, who was quick to blast the form as a “denunciation portal” that was “certainly illegal and “should be deleted immediately”. Writing on his Facebook page, Kubicki went on: “Chinese conditions in Essen. The fact that citizens are now officially turned into informers and should upload photos from public space is a reminder of the worst times. This pushes fear and distrust into our society. The only thing missing is that the authorised officers are given a percentage of the fine.”
He further elaborated that, since there are so many deficiencies in the digitisation of administration processes in Germany, “it is very strange that, of all things, the process for reporting corona violations became possible so quickly.”
His comments were echoed by the Greens Digital Expert Dieter Janecek, who in an interview with Bild said that “Authorities should not use forms to encourage citizens to denounce other citizens. That divides society.”
The city of Essen, however, defended the form, tweeting that it was used to “channel information that the public order office otherwise receives by phone or email. At no time have we advertised the form or actively asked anyone to report violations.”