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June 18, 2009 1:39 PM   Subscribe

As of tomorrow a law will be in effect in Germany that allows the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation to block websites without any judicial approval. Both big parties voted favorably today - even in the face of protest and the most successful online petition in Germany so far. And while the original law states that only child pornography can be censored this way, politicians and music industry execs are already calling for the blocking of first person shooters and copyright-infringing content. (Last two links in German)

The obligatory twitter-hash tag is #zensursula - a pun on the German word for censorship and the name of the Minister for Family Affairs Ursula von der Leyen.
posted by dominik (35 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ain't that some scheisse?
posted by educatedslacker at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2009


Ah... child porn. Is there any freedom whose persecution you can't provide cover for?
posted by Joe Beese at 1:51 PM on June 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


this is double-plus bad.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:52 PM on June 18, 2009


First, they came for my child pornography, but I said nothing. Then, they came for my music collection, and I again was silent. What followed was my first-person shooters, and I no longer knew how to defend myself with a gun. Then finally, they came for me. Which, admittedly, was for the best.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


I think it's only a matter of time before most countries employ censorship architecture on Internet content. "Protect the children" is just too big a lobby. And when you promise to only censor porn it's hard to get much popular protest.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:58 PM on June 18, 2009


...and the most successful online petition in Germany so far.

It seems equally successful as every other online petition so far, I'd say. That is, not successful at all.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:58 PM on June 18, 2009


I don't get it. If they know some site is serving up CP can't they just go, y'know, arrest people? Also, from TFA:

The working group on censorship demonstrated the alternatives for instance by actually removing over 60 websites containing child pornographic content in 12 hours, simply by emailing the international providers who then removed this content from the net.

That seems a lot more practical to me and doesn't put in place a technical and legal framework for censoring that will inevitably be abused.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope the federal constitutional court will stop this nonsense. This recent display of plain incompetence, lack of judgement, resistance to facts and the disgusting propaganda rolled out in the past weeks by CDU politicians (like labeling the tens of thousands of people who signed the petition as pedophiles) is pissing me off so much, I lack words for it.

The good thing about it: it's a wakeup call for many progressive and vocal supporters of the social democrats, who finally realized that this party can't be trusted or supported anymore with the people currently in charge of it. After the election in September it will implode and hopefully renew. There's hardly any doubt the conservatives will win this election but it will only speed up their erosion once there is a notable, unified left opposition again. And yeah, let me dream at least a bit.

The campaign to stop the law orchestrated in the German social web also might mark the beginning of a real political blogosphere in this country, it was impressive.
posted by starzero at 2:12 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This will be a lot more environmentally friendly that those huge piles of burning books.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:16 PM on June 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


It seems equally successful as every other online petition so far, I'd say. That is, not successful at all.
Sadly though. At least the person who initiated the petition will get to talk to a sub-committee of the Bundestag, so that's something.
That seems a lot more practical to me
Yes. But you can't win an election with that in a country where everything internet is considered highly suspicious. Plus, the BKA said beforehand that they would not contact providers in foreign countries as it is not their jurisdiction and contacting local law enforcements would take too long.
posted by dominik at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2009


Das ist Quatsch3!
posted by chillmost at 2:22 PM on June 18, 2009


Plus, the BKA said beforehand that they would not contact providers in foreign countries as it is not their jurisdiction

which was just another lie and even disproved by the parliament's very own research service.
posted by starzero at 2:24 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


net censorship is working so well in Iran, I'm sure the germans are on the right track.
posted by nomisxid at 2:31 PM on June 18, 2009


You know, most people probably don't realize you can't just got to Google and type in "kiddie porn" and have a bunch of child pornography sites come up.

I mean, that, seriously. Most people.
posted by Xoebe at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2009


You can Google "lolita porn" and have a bunch of sites that claim to offer "kiddie porn" come up. I have not pursued this matter any further, because I have limited skills in the unseeing.

At least the person who initiated the petition will get to talk to a sub-committee of the Bundestag, so that's something.

I do not know how these things work in Germany, but in the US, talking to a sub-committee of Congress is worth exactly jack and squat.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:40 PM on June 18, 2009


I ♥ the first amendment
posted by delmoi at 2:40 PM on June 18, 2009


Fuck that noise.
posted by PuppyCat at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2009


If we would just do what Time/Warner says and let them control all Internet access everywhere, the government wouldn't have to step in.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:53 PM on June 18, 2009


I ♥ the first amendment

I have this fading memory about something similar. I think we even wrote it down in some old book somewhere. Oh wait, it was the constitution!

Article 5
(1) 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.


We enjoyed it while it lasted.
posted by starzero at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope this backfires massively on them. I hope they start blocking political sites and legitimate works of art. Some lessons are needed when hysteria gets out of control.
posted by dibblda at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2009


I hope the federal constitutional court will stop this nonsense.

Starzero and others, forgive my ignorance -- I've lived here for a year and should know better. Can the federal court negate legislation like this in a manner similar to judicial review in the U.S.? If so, since this new policy clearly goes against Germany's Basic Law, isn't this just a stunt along the same lines as Congressional amendments banning the burning of the flag -- that is, the sponsors know it's probably going to get overturned and are doing it to score cheap political points?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:21 PM on June 18, 2009


Yes foxy_hedgehog, providing our version of the supreme court has the foresight and the competence to rule in such a way. Which is unlikely.
posted by Dadoes at 3:34 PM on June 18, 2009


"…and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources"

I see what they did there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:49 PM on June 18, 2009


"You know, most people probably don't realize you can't just got to Google and type in "kiddie porn" and have a bunch of child pornography sites come up."

Hmmm...., apparently true. Still, strange.

Nice title.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 PM on June 18, 2009


Welcome to the world of Internet filtering, Germany. You're in good company.
posted by inara at 3:54 PM on June 18, 2009


Can the federal court negate legislation like this in a manner similar to judicial review in the U.S.?

Yeah, it's a similar process to the judicial review and it has happened in the past, the German Wikipedia page lists the court's most important decisions (German only), the official website is available in English and has a searchable database of all decisions.

I'm still uncertain how to categorize the whole thing. It started out as a typical political stunt to score some quick points for the upcoming election and I think von der Leyen and her party couldn't imagine how there could be any real opposition against a law blocking child porn.
Then again they already pissed off the vocal web crowd and many acticists by painting the Internet as the root of all evil (terrorism, crime, violence) and two extremely unpopular laws enacted by the current government (data retention, also up for review at the constitutional court, and computer-surveillance, already partly turned down by the constitutional court).

It's possible that the court will decide the law is breaking basic law, though they might let it pass if there are tight restrictions being put in place to prevent abuse and ensure consistency with the constitution (which happened e.g. with the extended surveillance laws in the 90s or the or the computer surveillance).
posted by starzero at 4:13 PM on June 18, 2009


the original law states that only child pornography can be censored this way

Where have I heard that before....
posted by Erberus at 4:19 PM on June 18, 2009


A similar stupid thing is being done in Canada. Slowly but surely, our governments are clawing back the freedoms we gained.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:06 PM on June 18, 2009


Other people here are way more informed than I am, but as a very casual observer I can say: the constitutional court (Verfassungsgericht) does a lot. I'm constantly hearing about laws being declared unconstitutional. I keep asking people "just how long is your constitution anyways?" It's my impression that the court interprets the intentions of the constitution very broadly.
posted by creasy boy at 11:01 PM on June 18, 2009


Is there an explanation of how it works from a technical standpoint anywhere (English or German)? I looked through Heise but didn't see one, and I thought I read a while back that they got 1&1, Telekom, Hansenet, etc. to agree to implement this as part of their DNS services - meaning that anyone who uses OpenDNS or a personal server will be able to get around it, making the whole thing even more ridiculous.
posted by cmonkey at 11:50 PM on June 18, 2009


Is there an explanation of how it works from a technical standpoint anywhere
I think it's still done by DNS.
posted by dominik at 2:12 AM on June 19, 2009


Apparently, the Bundeskriminalamt will provide all providers with more than 10000 users with a daily list of fully qualified domain names. The providers will then have to filter these names at their own DNS servers (not block access to other DNS servers) and return the IP address of a server in their control that will display a web page with a stop sign. The user information gathered by this server is not supposed to be used by law enforcement to prosecute the users, a concession made after it was pointed out that people could be forwarded by spam mails or other innocent looking links. It is not at all clear what should happen to non-http connections at these stop servers, e.g., mail, etc. There is some language that would allow the providers to employ blocking techniques in addition to that, but this DNS blocking is the minimal blocking required by law.

As a minor nitpick: The law will not be in effect until it was signed by the Federal President and published in the Bundesgesetzblatt. It will be reviewed by the constitutional court and hopefully declared unconstitutional or at least heavily curtailed. It just takes several years until the court will decide. It may be possible to get the court to suspend the law until review. For example, there is a law in front of the court that forces providers to store the IP addresses etc. of their customers for six months and provide access to law enforcement. The court has ordered that the data may be gathered but that law enforcement access is blocked until it has ruled on the constitutionality.

If you are interested in the style of the rulings, a recent rejection of a law that would have allowed law enforcement to trojan your computers and do remote forensic analyis is available in English. It found that "The general right of personality (Article 2.1 in conjunction with Article 1.1 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz – GG)) encompasses the fundamental right to the guarantee of the confidentiality and integrity of information technology systems." This will have profound positive impact in the future.

Another positive example is the ruling that the use of election computers is unconstitutional unless it is "possible for the citizen to check the essential steps in the election act and in the ascertainment of the results reliably and without special expert knowledge." For practical purposes, this makes the use of election computers impossible.
posted by ltl at 2:46 AM on June 19, 2009


So, all anybody has to do to get around this is use 4.2.2.1 instead of their usual DNS?

Weak sauce.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 AM on June 19, 2009


The divide on this topic between offline public opinion/online public opinion is really stunning in Germany. If you get most of your information from the web, you'll easily get the impression that most people are against this law.
But if you ask around a bit in RL (or look at Old Media), the vast majority of Germans, in my experience, seem to think the new censorship law is a good thing. Even young/leftish/progressive people.
The sad thing is that Germans don't recognize censorship, and even when they recognize it, they don't really mind. In a recent poll, Ursula Von der Leyen was actually one of the most popular politicians... No wonder that the big German parties are getting more and more "anti-internet." (There's a quite depressing blog post analyzing this development within the CDU here.)

The Pirate Party, whose main agenda is to prevent this type of internet censorship, really seems to gain a lot of supporters at the moment. Some weeks ago, hardly anybody knew them, now lots of (online-identified) people I know are joining, or at least recognizing that there's a problem. I wonder whether this was such a good idea, though. Tauss seems to be a respectable guy, but the fact that every BILD-Reader in Germany thinks he's Mr. Creepy McPedopants will make the whole thing so much harder to sell...but let's hope it at least creates more interest in the party...
posted by The Toad at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2009


[Also: Hello, starzero! I think we're neighbors!]
posted by The Toad at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2009


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