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Coming to a country near you: Internet Censorship.

Posted on June 18, 2009 at 06:26 PM

Today, the german parliament decided in a 389 Yep to 128 Nay vote that germany should join the ranks of China, Iran and other repressive nations as a country that censors the internet. While this law is not quite “Law” yet, it is unlikely that it will not pass the rest of the required votes.

This all is being done under the guise of fighting child pornography online, with “DNS blocking” as the method of choice.

That this law is a very bad idea should be instantly obvious to most people.

  • It goes against democratic principles and the constitution. There is no doubt that it does. The german constitution, §5.1, states that:
    Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures, and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.
    Now, of course this does not mean that people should be allowed to distribute illegal material on the internet - the same laws apply there as do to print media. But that is it! The same laws, not more, and more draconian laws.
  • It goes against democratic principles even more. The list of censored web sites is secret and maintained by a police organization. Oversight by judges is not deemed neccesary (Only a “Quasi-Judical control committee” which was put in in the last minute to appease some members of Parliament). Effectively, the police are given judical powers here. Separation of powers, which is a basic principle in every democracy, is being violated in an abhorrent way. Effectively, with this law, germany cannot claim to be and entirely democratic nation anymore.
  • It will be abused. Just as has been the case with such lists in other nations, illegally web sites will end up on the list that have nothing to do with child pornography. And already, some ministers and interest groups are asking for the legalization of blocking of online gambling sites and websites such as PirateBay.
  • It does not work! “DNS blocking” does nothing to prevent users with minimal technical knowledge. The blocking basically works by lying to the user about where a website is to be found on the internet when he requests the location of a web page. Just asking someone else - “Using a different DNS server”, in technical terms - is easy and done withing a minute, tutorials for doing this are easily found online.
  • It might actually prevent effective prosecution of child pornographers. The primary goal in any such law should be to prevent the production of child pornopgraphy. This can only be done by finding, arresting and prosecuting the people running servers distributing child porn and trying to go from them to the producers. Being put on a list like this makes it easy for people running servers to see if the police are on to their actions - and subsequently move their content elsewhere. This is not only my opinion, but the opinion of the “German criminal investigators union” (German) - of the people effectively responsible for fighting child porn!
  • The list will leak. Make no mistake, this “secret” list can and will be leaked, as has happened before. Now, we’re providing people interested in child pornography a nice, big list with web sites they can find images at.

It is no wonder that over 130000 people have signed a petition to the Parliament to reconsider this law, and that people are out protesting against it. The social democratic party of germanys canidates for the election have sent a letter (German) to the members of parliament begging them to reconsider their position. This law once again shows the growing conflict between the members of the younger generation, who are able to use new media for creating knowledge and art and for recreation, and a majority of people who did not grow up with such things - and are afraid of them.

Censorship is not a solution to any problem. What we need is efficient measures for fighting child pornography. This includes:

  • Allocating more ressources to the very understaffed police departments for fighting child porn - They need more people, and more money for equipment or training.
  • Creating an effective international network for police cooperation. Online child pornography is not any single nations problem, and only if the police can effectively work across borders is there any chance of progess.

Prosecution and deltion is clearly the only way to achieve anything on this front and to prevent the sexual abuse of children - but instead, a law is being forced down our throats whose likely effect is nothing but a chilling effect on freedom of expression on the internet for german users.

As has been previously the case with such laws, the law will be challenged in court the instance it passes (As is usually the case with such laws, and is not likely to hold up - but meanwhile an infrastructure for censorship is being created. This is dangerous and unreasonable, and reflects badly on our ruling parties, and germany as a whole. Realistically it is yet another step into the direction of a police state which for some reason some policitians seem to be keen on creating.

This crap has to stop. Get active now. Rights are there to be used, and if one doesn’t they have the tendency to silently evaporate. Fight the erosion of personal freedom, or eventually there will be no way for you to fight it anymore.

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There are 2 comments on this post. Post yours →

This post is excellent, and accurate. Couldn’t have said it better.

LiteralKa, posted on July 31, 2009 at 03:15 AM

I assume that many German Government websites are facing unrelentless DDoSses.

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