18

I was recently sent a website which, among other terrible health advice, links to a custom google map which allows users to enter locations where they can shop/go to without wearing a face mask (due to COVID-19) and not face any consequences. Since wearing face masks is mandatory in Germany, are there any laws that are violated by:

  • creating such a map in the first place (although it is user-entered content) and
  • linking to a map from one's own website?

Additional information: The website's legal notice (An Impressum, which is mandatory in Germany) attributes the website to a woman living in Germany.

Reasons why I think this could/should be illegal:

  • It gives advice on how to circumvent public health related laws
  • If enough people utilize this website, it could seriously endanger lots of people
6
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Oct 18 '20 at 23:17
  • For the record: I believe the mask wearing regulations are ordinances (Verordnung) rather than laws (Gesetz) as they have been passed by the executive not by the legislative afaik. This may or may not influence the legal consequences the site faces.
    – Jan
    Oct 19 '20 at 2:18
  • @Jan yes, they are Verordnungen and they do not even come from the federal government, but from the states (Länder). This means that most legal questions related to COVID-19 measures in Germany are state-dependent. We have often enough seen that the exact same regulation was nullified by courts in some states, but not in others.
    – wimi
    Oct 19 '20 at 7:13
  • 3
    @Jan To be more precise, they are Rechtsverordnungen based on § 32 Satz 1 des Infektionsschutzgesetzes vom 20. Juli 2000, which allows, for the purpose of Combating communicable diseases, the restriction of specificly listed rights. They have the power of the law. Violations are Ordnungswidrigkeiten. Mouth and nose covering regulations, to my knowledge, have never been nullified by any court. Oct 19 '20 at 9:08
  • Does the website actually tell you to go to those places? Because I could see a very reasonable use of a website like that to quickly look up places I should avoid.
    – Mark
    Oct 19 '20 at 14:10
14
  • The COVID restrictions are new enough that there are few court decisions on how to interpret them. There are frequent requests for court injunctions seeking temporary relief. Some pass, some are denied.
  • The website might accuse locations listed there of breaking the restrictions. Making such an accusation in public sounds like a very bad idea, especially if there is no solid documentation. But the aggrieved party would be any location falsely listed.
  • The site may or may not be hosted in Germany. If it is not, it becomes a really interesting question which law applies.

You might inform the authorities, but beyond that, forget it.

3
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Oct 18 '20 at 23:17
  • 1
    It always confuses me when someone accepts an answer that does not answer the question.
    – Carsten S
    Oct 19 '20 at 12:19
  • 1
    @CarstenS, it seems that I understood what the OP wanted to know. The OP witnessed what might (or might not) be a crime and wanted to do his or her civic duty. In most cases I'm all for coming forward as a witness, but in a situation like this probably not. Just what the regulations are is too fluid, and "witnessing" a website is too remote. The answer by Zsolt is probably better than mine, but it goes in the same direction.
    – o.m.
    Oct 19 '20 at 16:26
12

The page owner might be breaking the law in three ways:

  • She might unrightfully claim that certain businesses are breaking the law, punishable as defamation and under civil law.
  • She might help others to break the law.
  • She might instigate others to the illegal act of not wearing a mask.

However, I see some similarities to the unpunished act of publishing speed camera locations.

On a final note, I doubt that the location of the web server will have an impact on the jurisdiction, as it is clearly targeted towards a local audience.

11
  • This is especially true, since her address is in Germany. Oct 18 '20 at 11:35
  • 3
    The approach is correct, but the "breaking the law" in this case is not a Straftat, but a Ordnungswidrigkeit. So the relevant norms for helping an instigating are not §§ 27, 111 StGB, but §§ 14, 116 OWiG.
    – K-HB
    Oct 18 '20 at 15:50
  • @K-HB Good point! Oct 18 '20 at 16:13
  • Good point on the publishing of of speed camera locations. There are definitely similarities there, possibly even useful as precedent should it come to court.
    – Mast
    Oct 19 '20 at 7:11
  • 1
    “act of publishing speed camera locations”: not sure I understand this. At least in Italy, that's public domain, and the Polizia Stradale (Highway Police) itself publishes it: poliziadistato.it/articolo/autovelox-e-tutor-dove-sono
    – DaG
    Oct 19 '20 at 13:16
5

As a private person, you can report the behavior to the police and health authorities, but you can not sue them per se - it is up to the Police to investigate (which they have the duty of) and the Staatsanwalt to decide to instigate a lawsuit. The Staatsanwaltschaft also will know best if and which laws were broken by both the listed places and the hoster.

The Health authorities might use your tip to investigate on the listed businesses, and again, it would be them to instruct/request a Staatsanwalt to instigate the lawsuit while themselves can hand out fines for noncompliance with ordinances. In some cases, they might shut down businesses until compliance with health standards is achieved, usually in gastronomic enterprises.

As the regulations are made and struck down, there is a rather fluent state of if the Staatsanwaltschaft will do anything, but reporting it is the only way to bring it to their attention.

1
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Oct 18 '20 at 23:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.