Germany Struggles to Stop Online Abuse Ahead of Election

“We have zero tolerance for hate speech and support the aims of NetzDG,” Facebook said in a statement.

Twitter, which received around 833,000 complaints and removed roughly 81,000 posts during the same period, said a majority of those posts did not fit the definition of illegal speech, but still violated the company’s terms of service.

“Threats, abusive content and harassment all have the potential to silence individuals,” Twitter said in a statement. “However, regulation and legislation such as this also has the potential to chill free speech by emboldening regimes around the world to legislate as a way to stifle dissent and legitimate speech.”

YouTube, which received around 312,000 complaints and removed around 48,000 pieces of content in the first six months of the year, declined to comment other than saying it complies with the law.

The amount of hate speech has become increasingly pronounced during election season, according to researchers at Reset and HateAid, organizations that track online hate speech and are pushing for tougher laws.

The groups reviewed nearly one million comments on far-right and conspiratorial groups across about 75,000 Facebook posts in June, finding that roughly 5 percent were “highly toxic” or violated the online hate speech law. Some of the worst material, including messages with Nazi symbolism, had been online for more than a year, the groups found. Of 100 posts reported by the groups to Facebook, roughly half were removed within a few days, while the others remain online.

The election has also seen a wave of misinformation, including false claims about voter fraud.

Annalena Baerbock, the 40-year-old leader of the Green Party and the only woman among the top candidates running to succeed Ms. Merkel, has been the subject of an outsize amount of abuse compared with her male rivals from other parties, including sexist slurs and misinformation campaigns, according to researchers.