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German President Refuses To Sign Censorship Law 272

Posted by kdawson
from the german-for-hot-potato dept.
thetinytoon writes "German federal president Horst Köhler has refused to sign a law to block child pornography that passed Parliament earlier this year, stating that he 'needs more information.' In Germany, the federal president has the right to reject a law only if its passage violated the order mandated by the constitution, or if it is obviously unconstitutional — he can't veto a law simply because he disagrees with it. The law was passed under a coalition government, but a different coalition took power before the law reached the president's desk. Political observers guess that the political parties would like to get rid of the law without losing face, but since it has already passed the Parliament, they can't simply abandon it."
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German President Refuses To Sign Censorship Law

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  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:54PM (#30263336)

    ... or at least according to the former family affairs minister - she said that everyone who is against this law is either a paedophile criminal or their lobby.

  • Only two options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnick (1211984) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:56PM (#30263358) Homepage

    Well, obviously this guy supports child pornography.

    Either that OR he wants to make sure that the censorship law is congruent with the German constitution.

    Take a wild guess which of those two options is going to dominate headlines...

    • Re:Only two options (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Atrox666 (957601) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:09PM (#30263456)

      Like the guy who blew the whistle on the sub-prime fiasco this guy will be my secret ace in the hole for my dead pool.
      The global elite only want control over everything you say or do while you slave away on subsistence wages to make them rich...is that so wrong?
      What would John Galt do?
      Freedom of speech and personal privacy are the tools of pedophiles don't ya know?
      Personally I even support people's right to deny the holocaust, say the sky is red..or any other dumb ass shit.
      Until you get all the opinions on the table you simply are not having an objective debate on any issue.

    • Re:Only two options (Score:5, Interesting)

      by prefec2 (875483) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @06:52PM (#30264440)

      The German President is the "pet" of our Chancellor Merkel. And as the law was only required to let the social democrats look like fools (which worked perfectly) it can now be dropped. However, this would need normally another law. And this would mean a lot of discussion. And it would look bad for the present neo-liberal/neo-conservative government. So the best way was to call the President and tell him to stop the law. And now it can be dropped or held for some time and dropped later. As the actual government messed up a lot in the first month, I guess they want to reduce possible additional hazards. (they messed up in Afghanistan too the former minister for defense (what an euphemism) who was then the minister of labour resign just this weekend, because his misjudgments).
         

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:49PM (#30264798)

      Here's a funny third possibility: He actually gives a shit about laws being "legal".

      I know, what an alien, outlandish and utterly outdated concept, but he just might consider the Basic Law of Germany more than a non-committal guideline.

  • What the? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:58PM (#30263378)

    This may come off as a troll, but I'm legitimately curious:

    I'm from the US. I have an adequate understanding of various forms of government, including parliamentary forms, but Germany's constitution and government really just drive me crazy with lack of understanding. I think perhaps a big part of that is cultural and being raised in a country with different values. The idea that the president can't veto a law, and that the only checks against parliamentary power are the constitution itself kind of bugs me a little. The German system in general bugs me a little I suppose, because I place such high value in free speech and things Germany apparently values differently. I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm just saying I don't understand.

    What I'd honestly like to understand is what the cultural differences are, and if anyone knows -WHY- they exist. Why is it that the US seems to have such a high value on free speech at least theoretically whereas Europe in general (Germany in particular) does not?

    Maybe someone who has lived in the US and Germany and understands both governments could just write up a brief opinion, because I'm trying to understand without being a "US Imperialist" and saying OH WELL THEY'RE JUST WRONG AND NEED LIBERATIN' but I'd like to get an insider's view.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry. I'm German, and I don't get it either.

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:09PM (#30263462) Homepage
      Free speech is valued in Germany but not as much as in the US. There are four reasons I'd suggest: One the US has the First Amendment which enshrined free speech pretty strongly. The fact that it was labeled first in the Bill of Rights probably had some suggestive effect. Although I've never seen any evidence that there was any intention to label the amendments by importance it still has a strong suggestive impact. Values might be different if the order was permuted. Second, the rise of the Nazi party and the post-war response to Nazism gives more of a feeling that some speech is genuinely dangerous and simply needs to be halted. The pre-Nazi Germany had very far ranging free speech and it is seen as this being part of the problem that lead to the Nazi reign. Third, there's much more value on privacy in many ways. The emphasis on privacy which frequently runs into free speech issues make free speech seem less important by comparison. Fourth, in general there's an attitude allowing more direct government intervention in many affairs which leads to again less of a problem with seeing speech being regulated. In the US, there's across the board some much heavier libertarian attitudes than in Germany or most of Europe. That libertarianism leads to more concern here about speech control. There are probably other reasons but those are simply off the top of my head.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by imsabbel (611519)

        I never got this "first Amendment" as a sign of importance argument.

        If it was that important, why was it only later added as an amendment?

        • Re:What the? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by fonos (847221) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:18PM (#30263508)
          There was a large group of people at the time (anti-federalists) that did not want a Federal Government that had too much power. Many states would not ratify the Constitution unless a Bill of Rights (First 10 Amendments) was added. It was a compromise. So to put it this way, if the Bill of Rights was never added to the Constitution, many states would not have ratified the Constitution and America really wouldn't be united as one country...Sounds pretty damn important to me.
        • Re:What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by haruharaharu (443975) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:52PM (#30263660) Homepage
          Because the constitution isn't a listing of rights, but powers of the federal government. One of the objections to the bill of rights was that it would be interpreted as a complkete list, and look - that's what happened.
          • [...] and look - that's what happened.

            What about Roe v. Wade?

          • Re:What the? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Shining Celebi (853093) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:09PM (#30264542) Homepage

            Because the constitution isn't a listing of rights, but powers of the federal government. One of the objections to the bill of rights was that it would be interpreted as a complkete list, and look - that's what happened.

            It's important to look behind the superficial arguments opposing the Bill of Rights and more deeply into what those who followed that line believed. The federalists, like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, were the ones making the argument that the Bill of Rights would be interpreted as a comprehensive list. This was not what they actually believed. This was pure misdirection. The federalists were opposed to the Bill of Rights because they favored a more powerful and centralized government. John Adams believed the British system of government was the best possible, king and all, and fought for America's system to be the same. Hamilton, John Jay, and the others followed this line to varying degrees. Naturally, as soon as they got into power, they started passing laws like the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to say bad things about the President. Adams arrested many anti-federalist newspaper editors under this law, flagrantly violating freedom of speech and expression.

            The federalists were not actually opposed to the Bill of Rights because they feared it would limit the rights of the people to only those enumerated. They feared the Bill of Rights because it would limit the power of the government. The federalists were determined the stomp over the rights of the people to the greatest extent possible, as evidenced by laws like the Sedition Act. They were not looking out for people and freedom.

            Political arguments in the past were no different than political arguments today. Context has to carefully be considered. The Bill of Rights preserved and enshrined the rights of the people, and they have done so time and again. We would have lost a lot without them.

        • by Ian Alexander (997430) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:02PM (#30263704)
          No, you have it backwards. People place a lot of value on it because that's the only Amendment they can remember.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by selven (1556643)

            I don't really mind regulation on speech, weapons, trial by jury, protection from excessive punishment or the right to remain silent, but quarter troops in my home and I'll blow their heads off with or without legal justification!

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:15PM (#30263494)
      Germany has restrictive laws regarding Nazi symbols and ultra-violence. The USA has restrictive laws against showing nipples.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Toonol (1057698)
        The USA has restrictive laws against showing nipples.

        Less than you think. Movies? Cable? Books? Games? There aren't legal restrictions against showing nipples. Even in public, often, it's explicitly legal. The apparent reluctance to show, for example, nudity in a PG movie is NOT a matter of law. The only major media channel that has substantial laws restricting what can be shown or said are those that use public airwaves (broadcast television and radio).
    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:16PM (#30263498)

      The idea that the president can't veto a law, and that the only checks against parliamentary power are the constitution itself kind of bugs me a little. The German system in general bugs me a little I suppose, because I place such high value in free speech and things Germany apparently values differently.

      Well, we had a few problems the last time one person had to much power...

      The highest value according to the German constitution ( http://www.iuscomp.org/gla/statutes/GG.htm ) is human dignity:
      (1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.

      One result of this value system is that the highest German court ruled that it is against the constitution to fire on captured civilian airplanes, even if this action could save lives:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luftsicherheitsgesetz

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alinabi (464689) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:19PM (#30263512)

      Why is it that the US seems to have such a high value on free speech

      What makes you say that? Is it the "free speech zones" at the Republicrat national conventions or Lenny Bruce's multiple arrests for saying "four letter words" on stage?

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dmartin (235398) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:22PM (#30263536)

      I don't know about Germany, but in New Zealand we have a very similar way of voting in our members of Parliament so I will take a stab at why you would not want your president to be able to veto a law thing.

      Unlike the US, we do not directly elect our head of state (I presume this is also true for Germany as well). Instead we vote for the party that we want to be in power, based on their policies and the party appoints a PM. This is actually quite common in many places, and it means that the Prime Minister can change inside a term. e.g. The United Kingdom had a PM change from Blair to Brown without an election. In the US if the president was to resign, the VP would become the president, it cannot be reassigned based on party politics. In practice the choice for PM is announced before the election, so many people do vote based on who they want their prime minister to be.

      [The US is even stranger here, as you get the right to vote for your sentators, representatives and your electoral college member, but that is a whole different digression.]

      The prime minister does have a fair amount of power, and does a bunch of figure head stuff (negotiate treaties, etc). But as it is not an elected position, the PM has fairly limited legislative power. The idea of one person vetoing a law that the other democratically elected MPs voted for would not be accepted, the PM already has a fair amount of unofficial power in the form of increased media time, and influence over the majority collation at the time. The fact that Germany has a system where the PM can overrule a law that violates the constitution is, in my opinion, a good thing.

      [The closest NZ has to this is the governer general -- as a member of the commonwealth our official head of state is the Queen of the Commonwealth. She appoints the GG who then approves laws in her place. The GG could, in principle, turn down any law for any reason but that would quickly turn public opinion against being part of the commonwealth and would probably make NZ reconsider its position within the commonwealth.]

      In contrast, ignoring the issue of the congressional college, the US populace votes directly for the position of president on the understanding that this one position will have a lot of legislative power in the form of vetos. Whether that is too much of a concentration of power for a single individual is up to you to decide, but at least it is an elected position. Ignoring our governor general (who theoretically has a lot of power, but would lose it is she ever tried to yield it) our system does not have as much power with a single person, and our elections for (psuedo-)head of state tend to be much more civil that the USA counterparts.

      Hope this helped explain the origins / reasons for the differences!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ma8thew (861741)
        Interesting post, but a few things are different between New Zealand and Germany. The equivalent to the Prime Minister in Germany is the Chancellor. Based on reading the Wikipedia article, the Chancellor is selected by secret ballot of their parliament. They are the head of government. The President is selected by secret ballot of a wider pool of people, but is largely ceremonial, much like our Queen. Much as the Queen can (theoretically) veto laws, so can their president, but it appears he has more legal s
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) *
        "This is actually quite common in many places"

        Indeed, it's called the Westminster system [wikipedia.org]. That and the French system are to a large extent the roots of modern democracy.

        One minor clarrification to your post is that you don't vote for a party, it only seems that way because the parties hand out "how to vote" leaflets and most people simply copy thier favorite party's recommendations.

        Also the official head of state is the govenor general not the PM (at least here in Oz), the GG is a proxy for the Que
    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cheesybagel (670288) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:28PM (#30263558)
      The German President is mostly a figurehead. Sort of like the Queen of England. Supposedly serves to preserve tradition, unity, and all that rot. The person with de facto executive power is the Chancellor (think of him as the Prime Minister).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        The Queen can still veto laws. At least until tomorrow, when the Lisbon Treaty diverts her (mostly ceremonial) rolls to the EU. She's essentially a relic and good for some pomp, nowadays.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Menchi (677927)
      To understand why the president is such a weak position in Germany, think of it as a constitutional monarchy. Back in 1918 (that's less than 100 years ago, basically yesterday in terms of history) Germany was a monarchy. Then, when the riots broke out, the guys who would found the Weimar Republic intended to go for a constitutional monarchy, with a weak Kaiser who's just a head of state without any actual powers. But things got out of hand, one thing led to another and suddenly the Kaiser was exiled and the
    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpghost (719344) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:36PM (#30263588) Homepage

      The idea that the president can't veto a law, and that the only checks against parliamentary power are the constitution itself kind of bugs me a little.

      Unlike France and the US, Germany doesn't have a presidential democracy. Moreover, the German President is not directly elected by the people but by a group of electors called "Bundesversammlung", which itself (unlike the electors in the US) is NOT elected by the people, but nominated by parties in the Parliament (Bundestag). So, the German President's legitimacy is weaker than that of a French or US president which is elected much more directly by the people. Think of the German President's role as a kind of emergency fallback, in case the Government was disabled... or goes crazy (it's all clearly defined in the German Basic Law). The reason for this strange setup is historical: those who drafted the German Basic Law were still under the impression of the disaster that an almighty Fuehrer (Hitler) can cause, and wanted to curb Government's power a little bit, without giving too much power to the President either. Furthermore, they were also deeply distrustful of the People (who voted NSDAP a decade and a half ago, let's not forget that), so they added a level of indirection in the election of the President. Take all this together, and you can understand German Basic Law a little better. It's still strange, though.

      • which itself (unlike the electors in the US) is NOT elected by the people, but nominated by parties in the Parliament (Bundestag)

        Actually the president is technically elected by the electoral college. All members of the electoral college are free to vote for whom ever they want under federal law. However all states have laws requiring the electoral college member for their state to vote according to popular vote of the people in that state (or the county election regions).

        So technically the president of the united states only represents the 583 members of the electoral college. :P

        • by dmartin (235398)

          which itself (unlike the electors in the US) is NOT elected by the people, but nominated by parties in the Parliament (Bundestag)

          Actually the president is technically elected by the electoral college. [snip]

          Right, which is exactly what the other poster said: the electors in the US system are directly elected by the people, the electors in the German system are not.

          • Right, which is exactly what the other poster said: the electors in the US system are directly elected by the people, the electors in the German system are not.

            Except the electors in the US system are not directly elected by the people, they are appointed by state officials.

            It just so happens that state law requires that they vote a certain way.

            However if one of them decided to violate state law and change their vote, there is absolutely nothing anybody could do about it.

            The elector would be thrown in jail, but they could not be forced to change their vote.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Ironsides (739422)

              Except the electors in the US system are not directly elected by the people, they are appointed by state officials.

              Depends on the state. In West Virginia, the people vote for the electors directly. In other states, the members of the electoral college are chosen from pools put forth by the political parties where you select which/how many from each party pool based on the parties of the candidates. Other states are a lottery from the voting population. Not all states appoint the electoral college.

    • by digitig (1056110)

      What I'd honestly like to understand is what the cultural differences are, and if anyone knows -WHY- they exist

      As I understand it, it's because US Law is based on English Common Law, whereas German law is heavily influenced by Napoleonic law (which was in force there until about a hundred years ago). Napoleonic law leans significantly in favour of the government against the private individual compared to English Common Law. So the differences are (at least in part) down to the outcome of the Napoleonic wars.

    • by multi io (640409)
      The president in Germany is absolutely NOT comparable to the president in the US. The German president isn't even elected by the people (but by the parliament), and he's neither a part of the government nor a member of the parliament. He is NOT elected in a general election, which is comparable to the US presidential elections, takes place every four years, and elects a new government (not quite, but that's a different issue...). Thus it kind of makes sense that the president has no political power. The ger
    • Why should the president be allowed to veto a law, really? Does this make bad laws harder to pass? Maybe, but then it makes necessary laws harder to pass as well. And bad laws harder to repel or fix (the two layers of veto in the US, first senate, then executive, means farm subsidies and gerrymandering, to name a few, won't be going anywhere for you...)

      It seems to me (take same caveat as in your first paragraph) that over-vetoing is a big problem for the US. Important issues are decided by duelling lawyers,
    • Re:What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:33PM (#30263918)

      The German constitution starts with the words:

      "Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar."

      Translated:

      "The dignity of man must not be violated."

      That is what is valued higher than free speech. And I think people agree for two reasons:

      1. The Nazis heavily violated the dignity of people. That is what disgusts us most about them. They dehumanized people on a massive scale. The killing is just a consequence of that. That is why we think that a life with dignity should be guaranteed for everyone. And this is for example why we have so much "socialism", we want that even the poor, the ill and the weak have their dignity. No one should be forced to beg for their live.

      2. I think most people don't really see what is gained by arranging the values with other priorities. It surely is important to be able to discuss and state ones opinion, but why is it important that I can ridicule everyone? Why is it important that I can publish racist jokes? Why is it important that I can make heavy accusations without any evidence? Why is that more important than dignity?

      Especially given the example of the USA. We know that freedom of speech is valued highest there. But we can't see that it works out good for you. You have freedom of speech in theory but in practice everyone with a different opinion is labeled unpatriotic and unamaerican. You can say what you want but your voice is easily marginalized without a second thought.

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Informative)

      by he-sk (103163) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:51PM (#30264008)

      The idea that the president can't veto a law, and that the only checks against parliamentary power are the constitution itself kind of bugs me a little.

      As others have said, the German president is mostly a figurehead and the real executive power lies with the chancellor.

      In the German system, there are three checks against an overzealous parliament: First, the president can refuse to sign a law as has happened here, but only for a very limited set of reasons.

      Secondly, many laws require to be passed by the Bundestag (upper chamber of the parliament, made up of elected members) AND the Bundesrat, the lower chamber that is made up of the executives of the German states. (Remember that Germany is a federation of states just like the US.) The Bundesrat just held up the EU-US SWIFT deal, so it appears to be working as a check.

      Finally, there's the constitutional court which can be called upon by certain constitutional institutions directly or indirectly by anybody as a court of last appeal (not really, but it works that way in practice.) The court actually has a very favorable view in Germany, because it has reigned in some of the excesses of the parliament, however there is a growing concern that lawmakers just keep throwing shitty laws at the court that it will fold eventually.

    • It's worth pointing out that the basic laws governing both Germany and Japan were created during the period when both of these countries were under US occupation after the second World War.

      Some of the laws they have come directly from a Allied desire to limit their ability to return to the sort of military power and political setup they had during WWII.

      The most obvious example is in the heavy limitations on the Japanese military, and the fact that Japan cannot declare war except in self-defense. I feel the

    • by Neoprofin (871029)
      I haven't lived in Germany, but I've listened to lectures from an MP and a member of the highest courts about the role of the parliament in their use of force for what it's worth.

      The Parliament is almost entirely all powerful in most matters, this is seen as the way to make sure that the governance of the people is done in a democratic fashion as the people making all the choices are representative of the vote of the people. In name it's a "two key" system, although the members of parliament are happy to
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mjbkinx (800231)

      Short answer: You've just witnessed how your country went from a democracy to fascism in just a few years, murdered millions of its own citizens and killed many more millions across the continent. Now you've been given the task of writing a new constitution. What do you do?

      Given the then very recent atrocities, the first thing you write down is that Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority. With that out of the way, you analyze what went wrong wit

  • Parlament? That's about the 4th mistake in a slashdot summary I've seen in the last couple days that spell check should have caught, let alone an editor. Maybe there should be some system, along the lines of moderation or the fire-hose, that let's you vote for suggested changes for certain words in a story. If a change gets enough votes up, it can go to an automated system that compares how different the two words are. If they're very similar (maybe only a letter or 2 different) it can see if the second wor

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rebelgecko (893016)

      Ahhhh every not ever... damn you irony!

    • by xlotlu (1395639)
      Maybe you should refrain from such comments until you learn the difference between let's and lets...
  • Matter of framing (Score:5, Informative)

    by aaandre (526056) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:08PM (#30263454)

    This is a censorship law pushed through legislation smartly framed as "Blocking Child Pornography." So, when the question comes up, are you against or for child pornography? Of course, the correct question is, are you for or against blanket policy allowing government censorship of the only free/cheap mass information medium in the world under the pretense of protecting children?

    And, in the realm of censorship, Germany seems to have the most sense (amongst Western nations incl. U.S. and England) , probably having already gone through the fiery blindness of mad political rampage in the past.

    For more on framing and how it defines the political scene (esp. in the U.S.) check this interview [is.gd] with George Lakoff, professor in linguistics. Here's a list [is.gd] of his lectures on YouTube.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Of course, the correct question is, are you for or against blanket policy allowing government censorship of the only free/cheap mass information medium in the world under the pretense of protecting children?.

      Shhh, that isnt how these groups work in order to guilt ( or just bring the news media down on you and end your career ) into going their way.

    • by Sibko (1036168) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:45PM (#30263632)

      And, in the realm of censorship, Germany seems to have the most sense

      Yeah, sure. So long as you aren't wearing any Nazi symbols, or showing Nazi symbols in a game, or showing too much violence/blood in a game or...

      Of course, German residents will [in typical fashion] defend such actions on the part of the government, but the way I see it, if Nazism is bad enough that there's enormous backlash against it in Germany, you shouldn't even NEED to censor it. People can make up their own goddamn minds.

      Really, all the censorship serves to do is flush it under a rug. The people who want to openly support Nazism [or anything else] should be free to do so, and I should be equally free to deride those people for their beliefs.

      Trying to hide it under the rug doesn't work, and should not be something that a "free and democratic" society should even consider doing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The ban on Nazi symbols was brought into play while the Allied occupied Germany. Furthermore, can you imagine the national and international backlash if a politician honestly wanted to get rid of this law? Two words: political suicide.

        Secondly, there's no real censorship on games/movies - it's just that games which are deemed unfit for children and youths (i.e. below 16/18 years of age) may not be shown / advertised for during "normal" hours, i.e. before 2200h. From 2200h to 2300h you may broadcast movies f

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jesus_666 (702802)
        As for excessive violence: It's not like the States (often held as the canonical counterexample here) are without their own censorship. Anything involving sex or the primary or secondary sex characteristics is guaranteed to at least bump up your rating (even if you didn't even include it in the game, see Oblivion); then there's that one game (can't remember the name, even though I think it's The Nations) where in the German version one faction produces booze and cigarettes while in the American one they pro
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Just because I am against child pornography I can't be against censorship? Just because I'm against Fascism I can't be against Communism? Just because I'm against overreaching copy restriction I can't be against rampart copyright infringments?

      The world isn't black and white.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:12PM (#30263486)

    To make this clear:

    The coalition in Germany has changed, yet the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which is the major part of the present coalition (CDU + FDP) also participated in the last coaltion (2005-2009) consisting of the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) and the CDU. The law was initiated by the CDU (without opposition from the SPD, to be true, but also without much enthusiasm) and they really did their best to have it passed.

    The same people who initiated it are now trying to stop it - not because they suddenly came to their senses, but because they wanted it so bad they fucked it up. They still want it, they just have to make a better (more in line with the German constitution) attempt. If they don't stop it now, it is likely that it will fail in the court (Federal Constitutional Court), which will make it harder for a seccond attempt (and cause more negative publicity).

    The Federal President is also ideologically associated to the CDU (although he is not allowed to be part any party), and he would be part of it, if he hadn't been elected as President. He won his election because of the support he got from the CDU. So he, too, didn't develop some common sense but is just helping his mates.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zorpheus (857617)
      Some more informations about this issue: There was a lot of discussion about this law in internet forums, but the arguments against this law were not taken serious by the established parties. There was even an online petition against this law which was signed by 134012 people. This is the largest number of signers for a petition yet. Since more than 50000 signed it, it had to be discussed again in the parliament. But not much happened. The new pirate party played a very important role in the camaign agains
      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        Plus, where most parties are willing to ignore their standards in exchange for power, the PP is less about gaining power than about forcing other people to adopt their standards out of populism. As such, any colition with the PP would involve the bigger party having to essentially do what the PP wants for the PP's core interest topics (mostly everything involving privacy and IP rights).

        Given that the PP is very much at odds with big business in those areas, a coalition with them would be a bitter pill to
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          Especially in a parlament split up amongst this fun assembly:

          CDU/CSU: Conservative party, with its backing in conservative groups, conservative industries, farmers and so on.
          SPD: Social democrats, used to be left leaning but considered "realistic socialists", i.e. willing to make sacrifices (too many for many of their voters, I'll get to that).
          FDP: Free democrats, kinda like liberals, leaning towards industry interests.
          "Die Linke": Leftist party, from a join of the former Communists and left leaning ex-SPD

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      This is not totally true. Köhler (the president) is still a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) (neo-conservatices). And there is no such rule in the German constitution (Grundgesetz) which states, that the president cannot be member of a party.

  • Censorship? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by angel'o'sphere (80593)

    First of all I wonder why you always use the term "censorship" if it is clearly not appropriated?
    The law is about blocking a web site, that was found distributing child porn. That is not censorship. Censorship is if you want to express something (either privately e.g. as a letter or public e.g. as a book) and you have to ask a censor first for permission. That is censorship. E.g. in the former East German Republic you could not publish a book without asking a censor first. And if he said: "no!" you not only

    • Re:Censorship? (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:59PM (#30263694)

      First of all I wonder why you always use the term "censorship" if it is clearly not appropriated?
      The law is about blocking a web site, that was found distributing child porn.

      Not quite. The law is about establishing a nationwide site-blocking infrastructure at ISPs. Which sites are to be
      blocked is supposed be decided by the BKA (federal police - roughly comparable to the FBI) without involvement
      of a judge or any further oversight, and of course the blocking list is to be kept secret, because it could be misused
      as a "shopping list" by evildoers.

      Additionally, the first version of the law had a logging provision, where the detection of somebody trying to access
      one of those blocked sites would be probable cause for investigating the person for certain crimes. I believe this was dropped,
      but you get the idea...

      This law is about much, much more than just child porn.

      • The GP did fall for the same fallacy that was propagated by those big brother people.

      • The really big problem is not the child porn; the problem is that with a censorship platform in place, it wouldn't take long to abuse it. In fact, IIRC, there already were proposals for blocks of other content immediately after the law was passed.

        So we'd have a secret list of websites nobody can visit, which can contain just about any kind of website deemed "bad", with no public oversight, no means of controlling it and - in the first draft of the law - the always-present looming threat of your visit bein
  • by gilgongo (57446) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:28PM (#30263874) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand what the hell is going in modern society that we suddenly think there are hoards of paedophiles everywhere. The only thing that might have changed in the last 50 years is that child porn may be more accessible now that it was before, but child porn doesn't make people into paedophiles any more than Kylie Minogue makes people homosexual.

    I would (sort of) understand it if this was just a stupid legislative thing - ie making laws to ban child porn in order to get more powers to spy on ordinary people, etc. but the thing is that the general public seem to be obsessed by it over the past 10 years.

    Today is by 43rd birthday. As I played with my 9 year old son, I thought about what my life was like when I was his age. The first thing that struck me was that (were it not for the rain here in London), he'd be out playing in the streets with his mates, not in some kind of house arrest situation where he has to have at least one parent with him at all times when he leaves the house.

    It's fucking sad. And it makes me angry that politicians pander to irrelevant crap like child porn and paedophiles. Yes, paedophiles exist, and so does child porn, but the NUMBER of paedophiles hasn't increased, has it? If it has, nobody's saying why. And even if it has, then the effect of 0.00001% of the population having a predilection for children is frankly irrelevant compared to dangers such as traffic accidents, non-sexual abuse, violence and murder, which - incidentally - hasn't increased either!

    What the hell is going on???

    • by Tack (4642) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @06:38PM (#30264334) Homepage

      I know two Brits at work who have moved to our Canadian office, and have described the situation as night-and-day. One, while on his decision-making trip, took notice of the well-traveled path through a tree-dense field and was surprised to see actual children walking on it. Without adult escorts. He was further struck by the absence of tall, barbed fences blockading the school he was evaluating for his kids.

      He told me that if he were walking across the street back home and a child in front of him tripped and fell, his first instinct would probably be to keep walking and turn a blind eye (and indeed, he figured that most men in that situation would do exactly that). I was reminded of this recently when watching Torchwood - Children of the Earth, when an adult male character, seated with a female colleague at a picnic table at a playground, rushed to help a kid who hurt herself. The mother yelled at him to get away, calling him a pervert.

      Is this really representative of the situation over there? Or does the above paint an overly extreme picture?

      • by Ma8thew (861741)
        I think you may have a slightly extreme view. I think that the difference may have come from moving to a less urban area. In London, the danger would probably be the traffic, rather than strangers.
    • by SimonInOz (579741) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @06:49PM (#30264422)

      What has changed?

      We are richer. We die less. We have less children. We value our children much more highly.
      There are (vastly) more cars on the streets. We fear our children will be hurt if they play there.
      We keep our children indoors.

      So they play with indoor toys. They get more shortsighted. They become inward looking and less social. So do we - the parents.

      We see our neighbours less. We know less of them. Perhaps we don't even notice if one of them has been enslaving children (yes, I am thinking of a recent case in the US).

      So the solution is obvious - ban cars in residential areas.

      Our children will once again be free to run the streets - even ride their bikes there. We will get to know our neightbours better. The children will look after each other. It'll be fine. (It was before - why not now?)
      Oh, and we will have to walk from our homes to the car park (or train station). We will be fitter. And thinner.

      It'll be a better place.

      What has this to do with paedophilia? Not much. But it has a lot to do with children.

    • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:01PM (#30264490)
      Well, the Communists aren't around to scare people and unfortunately both the politicians and the tabloid editors are really interested in scared people. Scared people buy every tabloid writing bold headlines like "THIS IS THE (suspected) SICK BASTARD WHO RAPED LITTLE SUSAN (9)" and after enough "news stories" asking questions like "WHY CAN'T ANYONE MAKE THIS ONSLAUGHT OF BESTIAL PEDO-RAPISTS STOP?" and featuring "world reknowned paedophilia experts" being one step short of reciting the eponymous song from the musical Reefer Madness with "child porn" substituted for "reefer", most people who rely on tabloids for their opinions agree that one, two liberties are not a bad thing to lose if it puts a stop to those pedo devils trying to rape all children on the planet.

      Of course it won't change a thing. And the anti-paedophilia censorship they were sold on turns out to be anti-everything. But that won't matter as the BILD, the Sun or whatever's the name of their little opinion delivery rag will proudly proclaim the war on paedophilia over. Until the next high-profile paedophilia case when they get to spread the fear again.


      I feel compelled to close my post with a few lines from the song "Lasse red'n" form German punk band "Die Ärzte":
      Die meisten Leute haben ihre Bildung aus der BILD.
      Und die besteht nun mal, wer wüßte das nicht,
      Aus Angst, Hass, Titten und dem Wetterbericht.


      Most people have their education from the BILD.
      And that consists, who wouldn't know that,
      Of fear, hate, tits and the weather report.


      Truer words have never been spoken about a tabloid.
    • by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:36PM (#30264720) Journal

      I agree with your concerns about children's liberty being restricted in the name of "protecting" them. I also agree with your belief that there are some serious issues which are often ignored by the majority; the hysteria over paedophilia allows significant risks to children to remain undetected or trivialised.

      "the effect of 0.00001% of the population having a predilection for children is frankly irrelevant compared to dangers such as traffic accidents, non-sexual abuse, violence and murder"

      Actually, the percentage of people who are attracted to children is much higher than that, even if the men who like sexually mature 15 year old girls are not included in the statistics. Despite the widespread occurrence of paedophilia within the general population, most paedophiles refrain from abusing children for several reasons:

      • Most paedophiles have a conscience.
      • Most paedophiles don't want to be arrested and ostracised by their community (although frankly, many of us feel marginalised even though we haven't offended).
      • Most paedophiles have suffered bad childhoods and don't wish to create problems for other children.

      I'm not just making assumptions based on the fact that I live responsibly with a paedophilic orientation. I know many other paedophiles who are also responsible people.

      I have posted this information previously, but it remains relevant:

      From Hall, et al [ipce.info] -

      "Consistent with previous data (Barbaree & Marshall, 1989; Briere & Runtz, 1989; Fedora et al., 1992; Freund & Watson, 1991), 20 % of the current subjects self-reported pedophilic interest and 26.25 % exhibited penile arousal to pedophilic stimuli that equaled or exceeded arousal to adult stimuli.

      [..]

      Eighty subjects completed the study. [..] Twenty-six subjects [approximately 33%] exhibited sexual arousal to the child slides that equaled or exceeded their arousal to the adult slides.

      [..] ....a sizable minority of men in normal populations who have not molested children may exhibit pedophilic fantasies and arousal. In recent studies, 12 to 32% of community college samples of men reported sexual attraction to children (B &R, 1989, H,G & C. 1990) or exhibited penile response to pedophilic stimuli (B&M, 1989, F et al, 1992, F&L, 1989, F & W, 1989). Thus, arousal to pedophilic stimuli does not necessarily correspond with pedophilic behavior (Hall, 1990; Schouten & Simon, 1992), although there are arguments to the contrary (Quinsey & Laws, 1990)."

      From the British Journal of Social Work [oxfordjournals.org] -

      "A self-administer questionnaire was given to a sample of 92 female and 91 male public sector child care workers. Results showed a significantly higher percentage of males (15 per cent) than females (4 per cent) expressed a sexual interest in children."

      From Is Pedophilia a Mental Disorder? [nfshost.com] -

      "In a sample of nearly 200 university males, 21% reported some sexual attraction to small children, 9% described sexual fantasies involving children, 5% admitted to having masturbated to sexual fantasies of children, and 7% indicated they might have sex with a child if not caught (Briere & Runtz, 1989). Briere and Runtz remarked that "given the probable social undesirability of such admissions, we may hypothesize that the actual rates were even higher" (p. 71). In another sample with 100 male and 180 female undergraduate students, 22% of males and 3% of females reported sexual attraction to a child (Smiljanich & Briere, 1996).

      Laboratory researchers have validated physiologically the self-report studies of nonclinical, nonpedophile identified volun

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Draek (916851)

      Yes, paedophiles exist, and so does child porn, but the NUMBER of paedophiles hasn't increased, has it?

      It most likely has, along with the rest of the human race. The percentage, on the other hand, I'd bet that it has stayed pretty much constant for the past few centuries or so.

      But I agree with the spirit of your post, reminds me of that old quote, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". Poor Roosevelt must be turning in his grave seeing so many people shitting their pants with any mention of pedophiles, terrorists, rapists and such that appears on modern media.

      Ohh, and happy birthday :)

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @08:37PM (#30265090)

      The word you should look up is hysteria. If you keep telling people that you're besieged by $bad_group, some will believe it. The longer you tell it and the more it hits home with people, the more people will believe it.

      Now, what hits more dead on than your kids wellbeing being at stake?

      The number of pedophiles has not increased, at least it's unlikely it has. The number of reported crimes has, actually, for two reasons: First, due to hysteria it's getting increasingly easy to be accused and tried (and remember, being tried as a pedo already makes you one, at least in the eyes of the public. After all, if there had been no reason...). If I find a crying kid out in the street, I will DECIDEDLY NOT go out and try to help unless I can be certain that the child is somehow injured AND others have seen that I had NOTHING to do with it. It's sad, I know, but the very last thing I need is that I go out, try to help this child and be sacked by a hysteric parent thinking I tried to molest their little darling when I was only checking out why a kid was standing alone in the street crying.

      The other reason is even sadder. Because the punishment for molesting a child has been upped and upped beyond any sensibility by now, the difference between going to jail for molesting a child and outright killing him or her afterwards is minimal. The chance to get caught after you kill the only witness is much lower. The result is easy to figure out.

      So yes, the amount of reported crimes is on the rise. Fortunately not only because of these two reasons but also because we teach our kids today that it is NEVER their fault if they're touched inappropriately, and parents are no longer willing to look the other way if someone dear to them is the culprit (as it is in almost all cases, btw, it's rarely the bad random stranger) and actually believe their kids if they finally muster the strenght to tell.

      Also, the media today take every single case and blow it up. Because it's interesting, people are sensitized already and eager to swallow any story furthering an already existing hysteria.

      But to answer the question, what's going on: personally, I think human needs a nemesis. Some villain, some evildoer, some sort of boogeyman to fear, blame or at least hate. Now, it's not really popular to hate in our PC world. You must not hate others. Not because they're black, not because they're jewish, not because they are handicapped, you must not hate anyone. But we need someone to hate. So let's hate pedophiles. Judging from how they're characterized by psychologists, it's a group of people who rarely have a lot of self esteem and prefer kids because they feel "stronger". Not really a group that's likely to fight back, is it? Perfect.

      Furthermore, a group that makes the perfect boogeyman. They're everywhere, ya know. You can't tell if someone is one. It could be your neighbor that looks really normal and all, but secretly in his basement there's kiddy-sized shackles tacked to a board I'm sure. It's a bit like the communist craze in the 50s when you think about it. Could be anyone, have to watch out...

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @06:14PM (#30264140)

    Things like these highlight some of the benefits of the German legislative system. Schavan would've been the better choice for the office of president and she'd've probably said 'Have enough information and my verdict is: Forget it' but never the less I'm positively suprised about this.

    Köhler wouldn't have been my President but he has shown balls at other occasions and he has a very polite, neatly shrouded and delicate way of basically saying 'Go fuck yourself' to his party members without publicly hurting any feelings, as soon as day-to-day politics start screwing around again in Germany. He's like a gutter-grid keeping the biggest chunks of crap of the german supreme courts back. Which allready has a hard time keeping up with voiding all the BS Berlin has been coming up with lately.

    Having a chancelor (currently Angela Merkel) for every-day politics and a President as mostly symbolic head-of-state does have its benefits, as it gives the President tthe obligation to use his power to prevent long-term-effects of election-term-based decisions and lobby/decoy/special-interest laws. And keeps him out of the regular decision making which gives him and his actions the required authority and weight.

    My 2 cents.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:44PM (#30264766)

    The law states that the government manages a secret list which ISPs have to implement (without looking at it... don't ask me how this is supposed to work but hey, it's a law concerning the internet, thus not necessarily feasible) which does not block anything outright but rather displays a big STOP page, telling the user that he is about to look at a "forbidden" page and asking him whether he really wants to go there.

    Or, as a German comedian put it, it's not a "no trespassing" sign. It's a stop sign. And people will do what they do when encountering a stop sign. They will stop, look that nobody is coming, and keep driving.

    The law came under fire from freedom of speech proponents and anti-child abuse groups alike, the former for the obvious reasons, the latter for the similarly obvious reason that it doesn't change jack. All it does is that you don't see the crime anymore, it still happens and it still is a problem.

    It's akin to the various pics that sprung up soon after this idea passed, like this one [wordpress.com]. Here we see the solution applied to homelessness.

    And yes, it's much like a 3 year old closing his eyes and thinking "I can't see it so it ain't there".

  • achtung! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tetsujin (103070) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @08:47PM (#30265146) Homepage Journal

    denken Sie an die Kinder!

  • by Secret Rabbit (914973) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @10:33PM (#30265662) Journal

    That was just the "justification" for it. The law really kills free speech in a most horrific way. In fact, pretty much every German freaked out over this and protested (unlike when similar things happened/happens in the US/Canada). It's nice that at least one politician is trying to get rid of it.

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