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German Parliament Enacts Internet Censorship Law 273

Posted by timothy
from the fuer-die-kinder dept.
TheTinyToon writes that by a vote of 389 to 128, "the proposed censorship law to block child porn has been passed by the German government. Not surprisingly, a member of the conservative party (CDU) announced plans to also check if the law could be extended to include so-called 'killer games' like Counterstrike, only two hours after the law was passed. More [in German] on netzpolitik.org."
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German Parliament Enacts Internet Censorship Law

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  • by HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:56AM (#28385845)
    "Once the legislation passes, police officials will have to draw up a list of web sites that feature child pornography and send the list to all telecommunications companies." Might as well just make the list public knowledge. Anyone with the inclination to view the material will be able to find it easier with any list made.
  • by adavies42 (746183) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:07AM (#28385889)
    If only Germany had protected its citizens from violent video games in the 1930's, imagine how many lives would have been saved!
  • by Phurge (1112105) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:22AM (#28385975)
    "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation"

    I'll leave you to guess who I'm quoting.
  • by Fex303 (557896) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:29AM (#28386009)

    German politicians are treading the thinnest line possible between Liberty and Hitler.

    Because those are the only two possible options...

  • by Tom (822) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:31AM (#28386029) Homepage Journal

    If you still needed proof that our political system is crap, this is it.

    The vast majority of politicians who voted "yes" on this topic could not even explain the base technologies if you asked them. Nor do they understand how their censorship law works, or what its consequences are. Despite having this pointed out to them repeatedly.

    It's becoming rapidly clear, especially with the economic crisis happening at the same time, that we're ruled by people who're simply not good at ruling, nor much else for that matter. Their expertise is in politics, i.e. getting into power, not in anything that matters once you are in power.

    If anyone shoots them all, I'll be there to applaud. And yes, I write that with my name on it. These people have nothing to lose and they act like it. While I'm not for violence, I'm starting to believe that at least the danger of violence and personal consequences is required or else our politicians will destroy us all - or, if you think about climate change, kill us all.

    Funny how it takes but weeks to throw billions at mismanaged banks, but it's taken years and no end in sight to agree on matters vital to the survival of the damn planet.

  • by drDugan (219551) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:33AM (#28386051) Homepage

    In this news, we see the real issue: That the slippery slope of making some information illegal is too steep. The primary issue that free global flow of information will do is dramatically reduce the need for centralized government power at the country level, in many ways. If people allow their governments to start making some information illegal, even for good reasons, then the norm of censorship will be accepted and expanded.

    Frankly, the main driver behind making such images illegal seems to be that we don't have the resources or the effort to catch people who actually harm children - so instead they make the next closest thing police *can* find illegal. This is lazy police work.

    I believe that a free and open society would work best if there were no restrictions on *access* to information once it is available. Laws would only restrict behaviors: The bits are not the issue, human behavior is. Thus, no image or stream of bits would ever be illegal (as I see it), only *actions* that people take that directly result in harm to other people. This would make the job of police much harder, yes, but the benefits become obvious quickly when reading this news.

  • by node 3 (115640) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:38AM (#28386091)

    If by "violent video games", you mean "violent fantasies of power and grandeur", your point changes.

    I do disagree with banning games, but your analogy doesn't attack the logic they are using. There are people alive in Germany right now who remember being caught up in the mythic ideals leading their nation, willingly and excitedly, into war all across Europe and beyond. You can't use arguments about why banning video games is wrong, because they aren't worried about the games per se. You have to explain why the games are different from the Nazi propaganda which so thoroughly scarred their national psyche that the effects are still felt to this day.

    Personally, I'd point out that the games aren't ideological, so they don't really push the same sort of emotional buttons that the Nazi idealism did. Even so, I suspect the nation still has an understandable aversion to the glorification of violence. I guess the counter-argument there is that the people playing the games don't bear those psychological scars, being so far removed in time from the war, sort of like how most Americans today don't really have an emotional connection to the great depression and thus aren't as frugal about money (although current events may be changing that a bit).

  • by node 3 (115640) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:44AM (#28386123)

    German politicians are treading the thinnest line possible between Liberty and Hitler.

    Because banning video games is just a thin line's-crossing away from Naziism...

    I'm pretty sure the next steps away from liberty after banning violent games don't involve invading neighboring nations, forcing ethnic and religious groups to wear specific symbols, rounding them up and killing them, and what not.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:49AM (#28386157)

    "Once the legislation passes, police officials will have to draw up a list of web sites that feature child pornography and send the list to all telecommunications companies." Might as well just make the list public knowledge. Anyone with the inclination to view the material will be able to find it easier with any list made.

    Incidentially this is one of the criticisms that practically all experts had. The experts were all ignored. One of the reasons some people now believe (and I tend in that direction) that this law is not about protecting children at all.

  • by freedom_india (780002) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:52AM (#28386167) Homepage Journal

    How do you ban video games on certain criteria?
    What prevents you from banning books, newspapers and and meetings based on same criteria?
    If video games are banned because of violence in them, then books also need to be banned. So do newspapers. So do meetings which discuss such newspapers.
    Where do start and where do we end?
    Because while Germans as individuals are the best of the human race, as a group they are capable of the worst behavior. And no, i didn't say this.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:55AM (#28386195)

    I wonder whether they have been thinking this through to the end. It's a surefire way for backfiring.

    Face it, the list will get out sooner or later. You have to hand that list to people you can't trust and who most likely do not agree with the censorship. I give it 2-3 weeks before you can read it up on wikileaks (for reference, see Australia). Then the minister for the interor can choose whether she wants to be pummeled from the right (if there is anything right of the CSU) or the left.

    The right will clobber her for handing the pedos basically a shopping list.

    The left will clobber her for listing sites that have nothing to do with child pornography but end up there for "questionable" (read: political) content.

    In any way, this is certain to backfire on her. I wonder if she has any idea what she's doing here.

    Not that I wouldn't want her to get kicked out of office, mind you...

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:57AM (#28386211)

    Believe? Anyone who has seen German politics for the last few years knows that this list is for many things, but protection of children is the smokescreen, at best.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:59AM (#28386217)

    Because "you lied" is a very slippery slope attack for politicians. Every politician lied at some point, and when someone opens that venue, he will get replies likewise.

    For the same reason you don't get to see politicians using the promises of their opponents from years past against them. Have you ever wondered why no party ever used the slogans of their opponents against them (as in "see what they promised you last election and now think what you got")?

    Maybe because the last thing they want is the voter to remember their promises and their lies.

  • Re:But what next? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:00AM (#28386221)

    It indeed may be able to reduce the amount of child porn watched in Germany.

    The current expert consent is that it will have zero effect. These will be DNS blocks which are trivially circumvented by using a different DNS server. You could use an open DNS server in a different country or simply run your own resolving server.

    The thing I'm worried about is the fact that once you started censoring something, the threshold to censor something else falls. Once you have started, you may easily start censoring some other things, just like those killer games that were mentioned. First the porn, then the games and what next?

    Pretty much anybody with some Internet competence is convinced that this is exactly the intention behind this law. Also there are plans to record anybody trying to access a blocked website and start investigating them (read: storm their homes, confiscate all thier computer equipment and telling the neighbours you are a likely a child-pornography consumer), since "they tried to access child pornography", which is a crime in Germany. Looks like an effort to establish a reign of fear. I predict that offering commercial anonymity proxies for webbrowsing to germans could be a good business in the next few years.

  • Instead if trying to filter the websites, why don't they try to close them down?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:09AM (#28386291)

    My sister-in-law is German, and mentioned that Germans have a very hard time showing national pride even two generations after the Nazi regime commited their atrocities. I wonder how much longer people who had nothing to do with such acts will have to atone for the faults of their ancestors.

  • by xlotlu (1395639) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:11AM (#28386303)

    "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation"

    I'll leave you to guess who I'm quoting.

    You're quoting Daniel Lapin [wikipedia.org]. This is an excerpt from an essay of his [aapsonline.org] which pretends to be a letter sent from the dead by Hitler to Julius Streicher [wikipedia.org].

    It builds on Hitler's advocacy in Mein Kampf that the sick / handicapped should be deemed unfit for procreation [vt.edu]:

    [The state] must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. It must see to it that only the healthy beget children; that there is only one disgrace: despite one's own sickness and deficiencies, to bring children into the world, and one highest honor: to renounce doing so.

    As such, the Hitler-attributable part of the quote is wildly out of context. But this fictional letter does a great job of pointing out where this "think of the children" is going.

  • Re:or not! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by socceroos (1374367) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:13AM (#28386311)
    Beyond governments maybe - but heading into the hands of companies certainly.
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:13AM (#28386319)

    ... why the PIRATE party (I hope they come up with a snazzy backronym for that) can expect to get my vote in the elections next fall.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:16AM (#28386335)

    I rather wonder what atrocities could have been avoided if some people had a virtual outlet for their delusions of grandeur or their sadistic drive.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:18AM (#28386349)

    In case of censorship, there are only two options. Either you allow the freedom of expression, or you don't. There is no "limited censorship".

  • Re:or not! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boombaard (1001577) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:28AM (#28386419) Journal

    The golden era is over. We're all doomed.

    The exact reverse can be argued. Due to the empowerment the internet has given to Joe Public, the enabling technologies which continue to come to market and the explosion in independent self expression Governments around the world are panicking into passing legislation which they hope will get the Genie back in the bottle. But frankly, they're pissing in the wind. Human ingenuity will win out over the nay sayers maybe for the first time in history because the development of tools is in OUR hands and the infrastructure is essentially beyond the control of individual governments.

    So: Go child porn?

    Sure, the only people it will 'deter' is the stupid first time viewers, and it will probably still let through 90%, so it'll be pointless, but it's hardly as though there is a hard-an-fast distinction between 'censorship' and 'things you're by law required not to look at or enjoy'. The only difference is that in this case you're afraid of the "what else"... Sure, it's possible to say that you think the threat is overblown, or even that you just don't care enough about systematic exploitation of minors to want to risk "free speech" abridgment, but it's hardly as though you really are able, willing and interested in "saying" everything you could
    The things you talk about, and consider important whenever the right to "free speech" is brought up, are the things that society allows you to talk about, after all. I still see very few people who are willing to openly discuss their private or sexual lives with others, even though there is no 'real'/'obvious' reason not to want to talk about it at all (in a non-lame/infantile manner). Especially considering the fact that statistically, people are still unsatisfied with these lives, and education, or sharing experiences, tips and tricks, would certainly obviate or alleviate some of these problems/complaints.
    Yet still people consider this a "private" matter, feel uncomfortable, and are afraid that their spouse will immediately be poached upon or will want to 'try out' others as soon as the subject is discussed openly (or somesuch. We humans have such active imaginations, especially when it comes to thinking up scenarios about what might go wrong when we change some rule or other. They're much like that CDU politician at that, although most just come up with these rationalizations after the fact, because they "just don't feel comfortable" even thinking about it.)

    Anyway, the problem isn't that certain modes of "speech" are being disallowed or prosecuted for when done online, (because that also happens offline) the problem is that cultural conservatives exist, who generally don't believe in looking at effect studies before passing judgment on whatever it is they perceive as a danger.
    Luckily these people die to be replaced by other conservatives who are trying to conserve a slightly later rule set (the one that they grew up with, rather than their parents, allowing us to change the topics of debate at least once or a few times per generation. Reactionaries, luckily, are few and far between, and most of the time far off the mark when it comes to being "accurate" in their portrayal of earlier 'values'.

  • by SecondaryOak (1342441) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:39AM (#28386493)
    I don't know any place in which the freedom of expression is absolute. There are always restrictions - to prevent libel, because of national security, to avoid incitement to violence, etc. Yet I'd still say freedom of expression exists with those limitations.
  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:39AM (#28386497)

    If only Germany had protected its citizens from violent video games in the 1930's, imagine how many lives would have been saved!

    I'm confused... your point here is "This is one of the countries that started WW2, so they have no right to ban violent videogames?" Or was it "WW2 was not caused by videogames, so clearly videogames can never be blamed for real life violence?"

  • Re:Honestly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:43AM (#28386521)

    This takes a while to explain.

    In Germany, too, there were killing sprees in schools. And just like everywhere, people were scrambling to find a reason.

    Well, if you ask me, when you look for reasons, look where the sprees happen: In schools. Would you go to a school if you went on a rampage with the goal to kill people? I'd use the subway on a monday morning. Or the shopping mall right before Christmas. WAY more people to mow down.

    They were not rampages. That was simply and plainly acts of revenge. Revenge for years of bullying, revenge for years of (preceived or real) favorism of teachers, revenge for being outcast, revenge for being picked on.

    But you can't blame the kids that bullied, mobbed and picked on him. They were killed! Accusing kids that were shot is political suicide.

    So you need a scapegoat. Without one, people keep looking for a reason. If you can present one, you have a reason and people stop looking.

    So, what could we use? We need something our voters don't understand, won't miss if we outlaw it, and it would be nice if it's something their kids do and they don't approve of.

    And since the music industry has the better lobbyists...

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:43AM (#28386529)

    Tetris pieces (Tetrinos?) have only 4 blocks.

    GP was clearly referring to the "pervert edition" of tetris, with increased, err, size.

  • by adavies42 (746183) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:44AM (#28386533)
    two-fold, really: germany gets absolutely no benefit of the doubt on censorship, and there are much more important things to worry about than video games.
  • by ghostdoc (1235612) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:48AM (#28386551)

    As an organisation convicted of serial child abuse affecting thousands of children over decades by a government largely sympathetic to it, the Roman Catholic Church will obviously be a large feature on any blacklist intending to protect children.

    source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8060442.stm [bbc.co.uk] amongst others.

    But, clearly, it won't. Until it does, there is nothing in any of these laws that is protecting children and any proponents of them are clearly immorally using 'think of the children' as a cover.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:46AM (#28386795) Journal
    I don't wether to agree or disagree with your point. Rather I'll try to complement it.
    "violent fantasies of power and grandeur" is, indeed, a natural wish that probably lurks into our reptilian brain. It is a natural inclination of humans and the cause of many evils. I can understand that the government tries to tune it down, but unless we do brain surgery on every newborn, it will fail.

    It can, however, provide ways to fullfill "violent fantasies of power and grandeur" that harms no one, that doesn't require to invent ennemies in the population or to run in the streets with a crowbar. Games provide such a way. In a game I can kill hundreds of ennemies per second, I can manage a kingdom, I can wage a war, I can do kung fu, without hurting anyone. The government does not want less violent games, it wants more.

    But some unfortunate people have a hard time discerning the border between reality and fiction. More frequently, some people will think that the self-image of power and grandeur that they build in games can be transposed in reality, leading to various violent behavior. What the government wants, in complement with violent games, is a mandatory psychology class for all students that explains the basics of human behavior. How ego works, the various bias we have when perceiving others and ourselves, the values we transpose from fantasies to the real world, and yes, what we tend to crave for: "power and grandeur" and how almost every media play on that desire to addict us.
  • by DarkListener (1042488) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:55AM (#28386847)
    Actually the president has to sign it before it becomes official (which he refused to do in a prior case). Plus the german Supreme Court is already on it too. They sacked quite a few earlier atempts of this government to build a police state (of course to protect us from terrorism and whatnot). It's kind of sad to see these laws stopped only at the last chance.
  • by Tom (822) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:09AM (#28386921) Homepage Journal

    In any way, this is certain to backfire on her. I wonder if she has any idea what she's doing here.

    No, she doesn't. If anything outside of scientific experiments was ever strongly proven, then the fact that Ursula von der Leyen has no clue whatsoever about this topic she's been pushing.

    She's stupid and/or mallicious, and very likely both. She should be forced to resign, and stripped of her pension.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:28AM (#28387013)
    Privacy and Internet Rights Advocates for Technological Equality
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:35AM (#28387059)

    Slashdot is a great place to discuss and moan, but it isn't the battle site. If you want to change things you need to organise yourselves, write to your representative, get your views across to journalists. Make it known that you are the majority view. Attend political meetings and support those in influence who support your view.

    Don't imagine that by whining on Slashdot you will have changed anything.

  • Re:or not! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bostei2008 (1441027) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:40AM (#28387075)

    What can also be argued is that people get the government they deserve.

    Well, I am german and I don't think I deserve this government. We tried to stop this law but failed.

    Actually, at no time in the years of Bush administration I thought americans deserve that government. Too many Americans I knew were really unhappy about it.

  • Re:or not! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jawn98685 (687784) on Friday June 19, 2009 @07:51AM (#28387777)
    Quite right, and in a country such as the U.S., where there is only a fast-diminishing distinction between corporate will and government will, what will be allowed to see and hear, not to mention speak and write, may well become subject to the fiat of a body or bodies quite apart from "the people". Consider the fact that, by many measures, the telecom lobby is the most powerful in Washington. Now consider that the telecoms do indeed hold the Internet's infrastructure in their hands. Now consider that for a just a bit longer, and then tell me that the Internet is safe from censorship.
  • I agree completely with Tom. von der Leyen is an idiot who has been hitched to the cart of Big Music. She's also known for her pro-Christian nutjob tendencies.

    Nobody would mind if she ended up being sacrificed. The music industry, who had been among the first to congratulate her on this move, are giddy with glee about the fact that the kiddie porn wedge has deflated the formerly simple argument about Internet surveillance and blocking being too expensive. Now that the apparatus is in place, it's available to anyone willing to bribe the right people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @09:55AM (#28389233)

    Unfortunately, it also says (in section 2 of the same article): "Diese Rechte finden ihre Schranken in den Vorschriften der allgemeinen Gesetze, den gesetzlichen Bestimmungen zum Schutze der Jugend und in dem Recht der persÃnlichen Ehre. " = "These rights find their limits in the provisions of the general laws, the laws for the protection of minors and in the right to personal honor". Now, IANAL, but it seems they can simply argue this law is necessary to protect minors, and to protect the "right to personal honor" of the victims of kiddie porn, and is thus constitutional.

  • by microbox (704317) on Friday June 19, 2009 @12:52PM (#28391741)
    Gun ownership is not so much about morality as it is about mortality. Same goes for wearing seat-belts. I guess it comes down to how you measure the public good. The conservatives want to assume that everybody is equal in their self-direction and responsibilities. The liberals want to measure the cost to the rest of us, when people can't be trusted to act wisely. It's interesting that conservatives see morality as something that can be imposed, despite evidence to the contrary (think war on drugs, abortion, or pretty much any other moral crusade), where as liberals think that self-determination and responsibility can be imposed.

    It's moral authoritarianism that liberals find so heinous, and for good reason. A true moral standard is humble in its prescription for the behaviour of others. After-all, history is laced with the horrors of conventional wisdom gone mad.
  • by JockTroll (996521) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:33PM (#28393171)

    "The liberals want to measure the cost to the rest of us, when people can't be trusted to act wisely."
    And that, loserboy nerd, is why the net will be gutted. The moment you decide that people can't be trusted is the moment you step in with all the might of authority to make them behave, or else.

    Like saying that arms and legs should be amputated and assholes plugged because this way we couldn't beat you up and shit on your faces.

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