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Censorship Your Rights Online

Deutsche Bahn to Sue Google 526

Posted by timothy
from the but-not-in-the-u.s. dept.
Many readers including this Anonymous Coward have written about this case: "After the DB-Deutsche Bahn (German railway comp.) won a case against Dutch ISP xs4all to remove 2 articles that were hosted on one of their servers, the DB now is going to sue Google (Wednesday) and probably in 2 days time Yahoo! and Altavista. Infoworld has an article about it. More background information about previous attempts to censor the same site can be found here and here's list of mirrors." And Yes, "Access is Forbidden."
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Deutsche Bahn to Sue Google

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  • by DtMM (80317) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:46AM (#3357626)
    Here's Google's cache [216.239.35.100] of the broken link.
  • by kzinti (9651) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:46AM (#3357629) Homepage Journal
    Google's defense: I know NOTH-ing. I see NOTH-ing. I hear NOTH-ing...

    Germans will believe that, right?
  • Not again (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cholokoy (265199)
    Are there people related to scientologists? :P

    OTOH, these are very legal concerns that the linked pages contain information that, in the hands of the wrong party could be dangerous to their operations, and being a public utility, they have to be concerned.

    This is iteresting because it has dire implications on page linking in general.
    • Re:Not again (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SyntheticTruth (17753) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:15AM (#3357785)
      A spoon in the hands of the wrong person can be deadly too. We should ban spoons and any information about spoons.

      A brick, and any information about making or using bricks, can be dangerous in the wrong hands too; we should ban everything about those as well.

      Blocking a page about some idea to sabotage is not going to make such extremists go away or stop their actions.

      It's just about control and power; and it's silly.
      • Re:Not again (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MouseR (3264)
        A brick, and any information about making or using bricks, can be dangerous in the wrong hands too; we should ban everything about those as well.

        Blocking a page about some idea to sabotage is not going to make such extremists go away or stop their actions.


        Bricks are meant to build houses. Yet, you can use bricks to maim people.

        On the other hand, guidebooks for destroying railroad tracks server no other purpose than destroying railroad tracks in attempts to disrupt the service, with the unfortunate possibility of killing people.

        Your analogy is too simplistic to be considered any valid. Free speech needs not be associated with destruction and killings. For this would definitely put and end to free speech.
        • Re:Not again (Score:4, Insightful)

          by WowTIP (112922) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @10:33AM (#3358364)
          On the other hand, guidebooks for destroying railroad tracks server no other purpose than destroying railroad tracks in attempts to disrupt the service, with the unfortunate possibility of killing people.

          But then again, information in itself has never harmed anyone. What harms is the practical use of that information and that is what is and should be illegal. Not publishing the information.

          If we banned all information on how to blow things up and how to murder evil dictators, how many books, movies and documentaries would not need to be banned? I for one think that is too high a price to pay for banning people like these from publishing their ideas on the internet. As far as I know, none of the ideas in their manifesto has been used yet. So, arrest the bad guys if they are really stupid enough to use the material.
        • Re:Not again (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jgerman (106518) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @12:18PM (#3359074)
          Ok up till this guidebooks for destroying railroad tracks server no other purpose ... . This is wrong. Knowledge in and of itself is worthy of merit. What about the engineer that decides he wants to improve the weaknesses of the railroad system. Then this book does exactly the opposite and helps the systems from being destroyed.


          Then you go on to blatantly pervert the concept of free speech. Free Speech does need to be associated with destruction and killing. Free Speech is absolute, it's the implementations that require (out of practicality) some restrictions.

    • Are there people related to scientologists? :P

      I thought Germany banned Scientology...

  • by Munelight (192694) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:48AM (#3357633) Homepage
    "Deutsche Bahn will file suit in Germany, where all three search engine companies have subsidiaries, because it feels it would not stand a chance in a U.S. court because of freedom of speech allowed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

    Have these people not been paying attention lately?
    • > Have these people not been paying attention lately?

      :-) Probably not.

      From google's cache: "Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content."

      I wonder how the german court will look on the disclaimer. If they find google guilty then it is perhaps the end of silly disclaimers.

      <disclaimer> This post represents the official view of the voices in my head. </ disclaimer>
  • Wayback (Score:2, Interesting)

    by benjymous (69893)
    I assume if they're sucessful with sueing Google, then they'll go after the Wayback Machine's archive [archive.org] of the site next
  • Not the cache. (Score:5, Informative)

    by perlyking (198166) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:48AM (#3357636) Homepage
    Just to clarify its not just the cache, its actually the links and its not to their site but articles that detail how to cut power on parts of the railway system.
    Its not *their* site they want removing.
  • Just more proof that there is no perfect country. The US has problems, Canada has problems, UK, Germany, France, Spain, and every other major country you can name has problems.

    So here in the US we have to deal with the DMCA and the like (which we are unfortunatly pushing on everyone else). Germany just bans free speech, which at least in the US we consider golden.

    Or is only in the US that we consider useless speech like this worth protecting. I wouldn't be surprized, and I can see the point, even though I disagree (that is it is worth pretecting despite being useless)

    • There is freedom of speech in Germany, as part of the constitution. The main difference is that free speech is considered to be one of many rights, not "the #1 amendment", so it is more often weighted against other rights.
      As we all know, once lawyers start to weigh and argue about things, anything can happen and right or wrong isn't really a matter anymore.
      • Tom, you're confused about the United States Constitution. The ammendments were added after the original document was drafted (and thus they're "ammendments") and they're numbered in the order in which they were added. It's a fairly difficult process to have the consitution ammended (it requires a 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature).

        At the moment there are 27 ammendments with some VERY important ones further down the list. For example, the 15th Ammendment gave all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color.

        It just seems that the First, Second, and Fourth are the ones most commonly under attack in the United States (see sig). It doesn't mean that they get priority over other ammendments.

        -S
      • What freedom of speech? It doesn't exist.

        Read Article 5 Section 2 here [uni-wuerzburg.de]. Rather pulls the "free" out of "free speech" doesn't it?

  • Not suing in America (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blankmange (571591) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:49AM (#3357639)
    Notice that DB is not suing Google in an American court, citing that they would probably not be successful due to our freedom of speech laws....interesting juxtaposition with our constant bashing of other countries (NZ for ex) in limiting their citizens access/freedom to speech and info.... Here's to Google, Yahoo, and AltaVista -- stick to your guns!!!
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:51AM (#3357651)
    Too bad its apache, for if it was IIS then I could just hack in...



    Save money- vote Republican
  • Dont they realize... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bludstone (103539) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:51AM (#3357654)
    ...that by attacking sites like this, they are simply drawing MORE attention to what they are trying to shut down?

    By now dozens of people have mirrored the site, and the possibility of it going away forever has diminished greatly.

    Fools.
  • I'm not going to argue the (stupid) merits of the lawsuit, but why Yahoo? Yahoo isn't a search engine anymore than Microsoft's DNS error page is. It's powered by Google. If suing Google gets Google to fix the issue they have, then it'll be summarily fixed on Yahoo's page as well. Yahoo just plain has nothing to do with this, outside of using Google's search tool.
  • Contents (Score:2, Informative)

    by hoofie (201045)
    As far as I can tell, the site may refer to transport of Nuclear Waste Material via Train across Germany. There has been massive demonstrations against this before in Germany. Possibly they details Deutsche Bahnhof's schedules, movement plans etc. - I can see why DB wouldn't want that published.

    In the UK, the train movements from power stations etc. are available and are on regular schedules. The security around them isn't very high, but then the flask the material is carried in weighs quite a few tons, is solid steel, and you'd need an extremely expensive facility just to open it again.
    • Re:Contents (Score:5, Funny)

      by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:17AM (#3357794) Homepage
      In the UK, the train movements from power stations etc. are available and are on regular schedules.

      The regular schedule being "we haven't a clue when we're leaving or arriving either, and yes - you will be delayed along the way". As per every other UK train.

      Cheers,
      Iam

    • In the UK, the train movements from power stations etc. are available and are on regular schedules.

      Really?

      They should start carrying fare paying passengers - they'd make an absolute fortune ;-)

      Cheers,

      Tim
  • Can a lawsuit really be filed for linking to material that no longer exists on a server (xs4all)? I would expect, at *MOST* that there would be a demand to remove the links, but since the material has been removed anyhow, I don't see the point. THe google bot will get rid of its link at some point.
    • Re:Lawsuit? (Score:3, Informative)

      by DickPhallus (472621)
      Ya, but the cache is still accessible, and the cache might hang around for a while longer than the links, giving the chance for people to mirror things.
    • Yes, if the links to the removed copy go away, that will just make it easier for people to find the mirrors! But the next step is presumably demanding that Google remove links to all copies of the document (oh dear, I changed byte 34109) from its index...

      Danny.

  • Censorship (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wise Dragon (71071) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:56AM (#3357690) Homepage
    "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there."
    -- Clare Booth Luce, 1903-1987
  • they're a threat to innocent citizens.
    Posting instructions of how to commit crimes (sabotage in this case) should be prohibited across boarders. The poloitical background of this is that there is a very fierce anti-nuclear-power movement in germany supportet by 'left' activists.
    Think of Greenpeace activists with no mind about inocent third parties and you'll get the picture.
    I hate the "Bahns" miserable missmanagement (I use the train on a regular basis here in germany) and I shure as hell oppose to nuclear power but none the less, these people are criminals and they are a shame to peacefull resitance against "Atomkraft".
    Sueing a searchengine is of course somewhat of a twist, but I hope this can raise and clarify some issues concerning morally doubtfull internet content and at least leverage trans-european law for this. I might help to know that the german gouverment holds large shares of the "Deutsche Bahn".
    • by squidinkcalligraphy (558677) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:15AM (#3357787)
      I won't get started about nuclear power stuff, but u talk about banning instructions of how to commit crimes. Crimes where? believe it or not, different countries have different laws. Alcohol is illegal in some Arab states; does that mean we should prohibit all home-brew websites? Free-speech is virtually a crime in China; so free speech activist sites should be banned. And even so, who is to say which laws are just? The Nazis made laws, ppl who broke them were severely punished; u reckon everyone should have blindly observed those laws just because they were laws?

      Sorry, u cannot (logically nor practically) censor the web.

    • I'm about to giveyou instructions on how to commit a crime in Germany:

      Paint Swastikas in all the windows of your house.

      There you go, simple as that. If I cared more, I could even post you links where you can buy paint and stencils. This is as much "information to allow you commit a crime" as publishing information on how to destroy railroad tracks is.

    • by Rand Race (110288) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:37AM (#3357931) Homepage
      Posting instructions of how to commit crimes (sabotage in this case) should be prohibited across boarders.

      By your logic the Allies in WWII were in the wrong for giving information on sabotage tactics to the French resistance. So much for supporting freedom fighters in tyranical nations.

      This is the same basic flaw of logic that burdens the US's war on terror. According to the definition we are using (all non-government supported organized violence) our own founding fathers were terrorists.

      • Posting instructions of how to commit crimes (sabotage in this case) should be prohibited across boarders.

        By your logic the Allies in WWII were in the wrong for giving information on sabotage tactics to the French resistance.


        A very different situation:
        a) the information was given by government authorities (allied armed forces)
        b) the information was not ruled illegal by a court of said allied nations


        So much for supporting freedom fighters in tyranical nations.


        So you like to conclude that germany is a tyranic nation?


        This is the same basic flaw of logic that burdens the US's war on terror. According to the definition we are using (all non-government supported organized violence) our own founding fathers were terrorists.


        Well, you are having flaws in logic.

        As you are only playing with words and are obviously not participating in the question: "Is that particular law suit understandable, at least, right or wrong?"

        I also can turn away from logic: Supposed you have a nice house. Supposed you have made it safe with alarm signals and traps to detect burglers. Supposed I buy a square yard of real estate in front of your house.

        Supposed I place there a big sign explaining in detail where you have placed which security measure around your house and your garden. Suppose I explain in detail how to counter your defence measures and grant free entrance for a burgler.

        What would you do?
        Remove the sign (from my ground)?
        Sue me?
        Change your security equipment?

        Regards,
        angel'o'sphere
  • The whole story. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AftanGustur (7715) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:04AM (#3357734) Homepage


    It actually is a much longer story (and more interesting), you can read it HERE [cryptome.org]

    • Nice link, thanks. This is pretty cynical stuff:

      • In 1996 and 1997 the Radikal-case caused a lot of public upheaval, when German providers were summoned to make this specific homepage unavailable to their subscribers. The blocking was lifted twice, when it became clear how ineffective it was. Neither the Dutch nor German authorities have ever ordered XS4ALL to remove the material. On top of that, the paper publication was never forbidden in the Netherlands.

      This is a nasty symptom of a modern disease. It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong, as long as you have enough money to just keep bringing lawsuits until you've exhausted the ability of your targets to defend themselves. I for one hope that Deutsche Bahn are severely bitchslapped over bringing this back to court yet again.

  • If they had sensitive documents that were harmful to the company what were they doing on a public web server with read permissions and no access restrictions in the first place? _I_ think the company should be liable to pay legal charges and damages to Google.
  • next on the list is Slashdot, and anyone else that has run this story, link to a story that links to the story about....

  • Deutsche Bahn will file suit in Germany, where all three search engine companies have subsidiaries, because it feels it would not stand a chance in a U.S. court because of freedom of speech allowed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    "There is no chance to sue them in the U.S. You are really allowed to put anything on the Internet there," Schreyer said.


    Subtext: Geez. If only those darned Americans would restrict speech even further and cooperate with the rest of the world, we wouldn't have to sue them here in Germany...

    But they only try to ban web pages about sex and how to decrypt DVDs. Why don't they get with the program and ban more stuff!

  • Host Name Change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Captain Large Face (559804) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:27AM (#3357848) Homepage

    In other news, www.xs4all.nl [xs4all.nl] will change to www.xs4allexceptcertainanarchistpublications.nl [xs4allexce...cations.nl] to represent recent events.

    Would it not be a better idea for Deutsche Bahn to use their excess cash to:

    • Secure Their Systems
    • Find Better Ways to Transport Radioactive Waste

    As the already-present mirrors show, attempting to censor people's right to freedom of speech on the Internet is a futile exercise.

  • by mttlg (174815) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:27AM (#3357853) Homepage Journal
    "Even if the pages no longer exist on XS4ALL sites, we want the search engines to remove the link because it still advertises a handbook for destruction. People will start looking for it elsewhere and we don't want that,"

    Right, some links on a few search engines are better advertising than numerous news articles describing exactly what the blocked pages contain...

    "There is no chance to sue them in the U.S. You are really allowed to put anything on the Internet there,"

    Yeah, instructions on hacking railway systems are ok, but you'd better not post instructions describing how to open legally purchased documents "protected" by some form of "encryption."

  • 1. The concerned Radikal publication is from 1996/1997; Its banning/blackage in The Netherlands was unsuccessful then. Why a lawsuit now? Is it because Deutsche Bahn is (again) planning to transport nuclear waste material soon?

    2. The Dutch court has made a 'tussenvonnis' (mid-sentence?). XS4ALL has said to await the final judgement.
  • by Sapphon (214287) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:44AM (#3357994) Journal
    As someone who works for a major German telecommunications company, I was directly involved in this, in that my office was responsible for giving the DB a 'heads up' about the site (whether or not we found it I'm not sure).
    I was asked to take a look at the portion of the site relating to my companies products (which was a guide on how to sabotage them to disrupt train services), and essentially the most elegant intructions given were "Pry the cover off, bash the insides to pieces with a rock, and/or fill it up with dirt/glue/etc".

    This was only a few weeks ago too, and this is the first I've heard of any action the DB has taken, but I am quite impressed at the speed at which this has progressed.

    (Details have been left vague to give me some semblance of anonyminity, protect my job, etc)
  • If the sites go away, reply to this comment with the news, and I can honor reasonable requests for copies of the english translated mirror.

    This *MAY* require PGP (GPG) key exchange, so make sure you have yours ready!

  • As I understand it, this site "offers instructions on how to sabotage railway systems," which is illegal information in Germany.

    Isn't it ironic now that the U.S. is starting to enforce it's laws outside its borders (Dimitry Skylarov, anyone?) that other countries expect to do the same? Did we really expect an international medium (the Internet) to comply with the laws of just one country?

    What is needed is for all of the countries which use the Internet to agree on a set of standards/rules which govern the Internet, and a way for those who want to post material which violates those rules to restrict their sites to countries where such material is legal. Currently, the web knows no borders and has no means of keeping information from traversing state and national boundaries into areas where it may be illegal (China excepted...) While this might seem draconian, it could easily keep citizens of other countries from being prosecuted should they choose to visit countries in which their viewpoints are illegal (such as the U.S. and China), since such illegal content would not be available to the prosecutors in the offended country.

  • Deutsche Bahn will file suit in Germany, where all three search engine companies have subsidiaries, because it feels it would not stand a chance in a U.S. court because of freedom of speech allowed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  • http://web.archive.org/web/19981206125714/www.xs4a ll.nl/~tank/radikal/

    or simply go to www.archive.org and type in http://www.xs4all.nl/~tank/radikal
  • I think that information like this can be potentially destructive. I would never condone someone using one of Hayduke's books, or the Anarchist's Cookbook, for harming another person; nor do I believe that books such as 'Making Your 30-03 Springfield Fully Automatic' really has any purpose in our civilization.

    That being said, information such as this -- for picking locks, field-expedient ordnance, dirty tricks, even making ricin-DNSO -- is important to have. There may very well come a time when it is not only important but *neccessary* to conduct illegal activities for whatever reason. One thing that comes to mind is for a guerilla resistance movement in an occupied country. Information on how to fight the occupying army is at least important as food and ammunition to such groups. Yes, this information can be potentially devastating, but there exists the potential, real need for it.

    Now, obviously, this information can be abused. I'm sure there are real-life anarchists out there who would jump at the chance to "stick it to the Man" and in the process kill a lot of people. There's no easy way to address this. There are two conflicting needs here, and unfortunately there's no way to be equitable about it: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. How do you decide what information is kept free?
  • From the infoworld article:

    "Deutsche Bahn recently sent letters to all three U.S. search engine operators asking them to remove the hyperlinks to the online copies of two articles from the German-language left-wing extremist publication, Radikal, which has been outlawed in Germany."

    Outlawed? I had no idea that an entire publication could be made illegal in that country. But then it is not too suprising considering the fact that they outlaw anything and everything to do with the Nazi era just like France does. Nevermind the fact that armbands with swastika's on them can't hurt anyone. I'm of the strong opinion that reminders of the Nazi era should be kept around and carefully studied so that the next time a similar group, such as Scientology, comes around the people will know it for what it is.

    If you live in the US, be glad. Our country may not be perfect, but at least here attempts to silence political views have to be done quietly and covertly rather than through direct and obvious government action.

  • Ah, the beautiful irony! The DB guy says 'There's no chance to sue them in the US, you can put anything online there'. Of course, he's half right: you probably are allowed to put instructions for how to sabotage a train system on a website (whether you think that's a good thing or not is another matter). But boy-oh-boy, if you put something online that might affect the tiniest bit the record or movie industry's revenue, you'll be sued to hell.
  • US equivalent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by j09824 (572485)
    The links in question are apparently instructions about how to sabotage transports of nuclear materials in Germany, which happen to be done by rail there.

    In the US, nuclear materials are transported by road. Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if you posted accurate information on the route information, security procedures, and instructions on how to sabotage such a transport here. Do you really believe the FBI wouldn't be knocking on your door? In the current climate, you'd probably simply disappear in some US "holding cell" somewhere, not to be heard from for months or years.

  • Google is pretty much immune under U.S. law for someone else's speech that they're caching. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects them from civil liability.
  • by ChaosDiscordSimple (41155) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @12:18PM (#3359075) Homepage

    This is more of a general rant than about the specifics of this case, but since the discussion has veered into general free speech issues, I think it's appropriate.

    Thanks to the DMCA and similar restrictions, publishing information on cracking dongles [dictionary.com] (hardware keys for software) is basically illegal. Concrete details on how to crack a dongle definately is. The people putting up information on cracking dongles usually do so for the sole purpose of encouraging others to use illegal copies of software. Clearly the dominant use of this information is criminal.

    So what's the harm in censoring this speech?

    Well, several years ago I was asked to investigate adding copy protection to a new software product [archive.org] (now defunct). My initial research focused on "respectable" publications on the subject. I found almost nothing useful. If the information I found was to be believed, dongles were practically impossible to defeat. So I extended my search to cracker sites. Now I found something. I discovered that all dongle technologies have been defeated on a case by case basis. I discovered which dongle technologies were trivial to defeat and which were very hard to defeat. I learned specific, concrete weaknesses and arguments for and against dongles. With this information I was able to provide solid information for my employers to use to make a decision.

    Let's say that the information on dongle cracking had been removed from the web. Well, my research would have been mostly fruitless. I would have had to largely rely on the misleading claims of the manufacturers themselves and reviews that didn't make serious attempts to defeat the dongles. However, the crackers would still have access to the information, passed around via instant messaging, password protected ftp, email, and other techniques. Dongles would still be insecure, but I wouldn't be able to make reasoned decisions about them.

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