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German Government forces ISPs to put web filters

22 April, 2009

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Deutsch: Deutsche Regierung verpflichtet ISPs zur Einführung von Webfiltern Macedonian: Германската влада ги принудува интерн...

The German Government, through Germany's family minister Ursula von der Leyen as well as the head of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Jörg Ziercke, signed on 17 April 2009 "voluntary" contracts with 5 large ISPs (Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone/Arcor, Hanse Net, Kabel Deutschland and Telefonica O2 that have 75 per cent of the German Internet access market) for child pornograph filtering via DNS.

At the same time, a draft bill on the same topic has been initiated by the Minister for Economics, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who is in charge of the telemedia law that makes things even worst than anticipated. The bill was approved today, 22 April 2009, by the German Government. The text shows that the ISPs will be "allowed" to log who tried to access a site on the blacklist and that the police can request this information. Moreover, the blacklist can also contain sites that only link to child porn, but do not host any content themselves.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office will be in charge of creating those lists and the new law obliges all providers with more than 10 000 customers (approx. 97% of all ISPs) to block porn sites on the lists. Their content will not be made public, thus leaving no possibility to check their correctness. Those who will try to access the pages from the blacklist will just see a stop sign.

The Ministry of Family Affairs is estimating that the list will be "at least thousand" Web pages. The Minister has confirmed some time ago that the censorship could be extended to exclude other content from the Internet, stating: "child pornography is a problem issue and clearly identifiable," but "you can not exclude what the federal government may want to exclude in the future."

However, the measure is illusory as explained by the 500 protesters that gathered in Berlin on Friday, 17 April 2009, to protest against this measure which is considered just a first step to political censorship on the web.

EDRi-member Ralf Bendrath explains on the main problems of the measure: "The web filters are not just a tool to remove illegal content from the net. Web filters are a tool of censorship. If you want illegal content removed from the Internet write an email to the hosting company and with hours it will be removed. If you just put it on an Internet censorship list, you will precisely NOT remove it. Moreover, the government ignores the facts. According to scientific studies, there is no mass market for child porn on websites, and most of the material is exchanged through private networks, filesharing sites or offline. We therefore see these activities as only symbolic and part of the beginning federal election campaign, while at the same time they are establishing a dangerous general censorship infrastructure."

The DNS filtering does not work, as explained by EDRi-member Chaos Computer Club. "It will be very easy to evade this filter," said a club spokesman, Matthias Mehldau. Any user that wants to bypass the Stop sign, would just need to change its DNS servers to one of the OpenDNS servers freely available on several websites.

Thus, the protesters explained that in fact the money and energy spent on creating blacklists would be much better used in getting the people who are offering child porn via their servers. Also it seems that the major providers are "blackmailed" by the government to sign the "voluntary" contract, so they shouldn't be associated in connection with child pornography.

Five German online companies agree to obstruct child porn (19.04.2009)

German Cabinet approves new law to ban child pornography Internet sites (22.04.2009)

Opinion on Germany's possible internet censorship (17.04.2009)

Hundreds protested in the early morning against Internet censorship (only in German, 17.04.2009)

BKA filters the Web (only in German, 17.04.2009),1518,619509,00.html

The arguments for child porn-blocking run into the void (only in German , 17.04.2009),1518,619505,00.html

Providers may log user requests (only in German, 20.04.2009)

Draft law on child pornography on the Internet (only in German, 22.04.2009)

Thoughts on the media perception & Bill on Wednesday (only in German, 20.04.2009)

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