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Censorship Businesses Google The Internet

German Search Engines Self-Regulating 465

Philipp Lenssen writes "Heise reports the German search engines Google.de, Lycos Europe, MSN Germany, AOL Germany, Yahoo.de, T-Online and T-Info today in Berlin announced the forming of a self-regulating organization (Babelfish version) under the hood of the German FSM (the "Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers"). Their combined goal is to streamline the process of censoring content ruled illegal under German law, so that a user's search results are stripped from such items."
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German Search Engines Self-Regulating

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  • From? (Score:5, Funny)

    by digidave ( 259925 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:48AM (#11766799)
    "a user's search results are stripped from such items"

    So... it only returns the illegal matches?
    • Re:From? (Score:3, Funny)

      by js7a ( 579872 )
      In Soviet Germany, illegal content strips YOU!
    • Only the illegal content that they didn't search for.
      • Re:From? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcleodnine ( 141832 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:53AM (#11767496)

        Searching is not a crime. Period.

        Hosting and posting illegal content is (at least in some countries)

        Trimming search input in the hopes of curbing "hate crimes" and pr0n is a dangerous precedent. I'd wager that policies like this make it easier to propagate 'revisionist' history.

        • The irony (Score:4, Insightful)

          by The Monster ( 227884 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:20PM (#11770572) Homepage
          Trimming search input in the hopes of curbing "hate crimes" . . . is a dangerous precedent
          The supreme irony is that in suppressing (neo)Nazi Propaganda (one of the things the German government suppresses), they are engaged in a fascist activity.

          Maybe they could make hate criminals wear some distinctive badge so everyone knows who they are, or have 're-education centers' for them. The haters could redeem themselves through work.

          Arbeit macht Frei!
  • America (Score:5, Funny)

    by kjd88 ( 842922 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:48AM (#11766800)
    I love the non-restrictive US.
    • Re:America (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:53AM (#11766851)
      ...where you can get fined for saying "fuck" on public radio. Was your post irony or hypocrisy?
      • Re:America (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JavaLord ( 680960 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:32AM (#11767255) Journal
        ...where you can get fined for saying "fuck" on public radio. Was your post irony or hypocrisy?

        Restricting public radio is different than restricting the internet. If you want to hear a show with the word 'fuck' there are privatly owned radio solutions. What value does the word 'fuck' add to anything anyway?

        Lets take a look at what Germany is censoring. From the Article:

        child pornography,

        Good

        right wing extremist "hate" sites,

        Why not censor left wing extremist "hate" sites? Then again, we don't want Germany to ban Slashdot.

        incitement to commit crimes,

        That is fine in theory, but sometimes civil disobedence is needed to protest an unjust law.

        race discrimination,

        Fine, but I'd rather these views be made in public than secretly.

        treasonable conduct as an agent for sabotage purposes

        Fine. But what exactly is considered treason?

        glorification of violence, or offence against the law for the protection of the youth.

        Glorification of violence? They will have to ban half the stuff on the net, and most of the games.
        • Re:America (Score:3, Funny)

          by E_elven ( 600520 )
          FIRE, fire, everybody out!!!
        • Re:America (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hyfe ( 641811 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @12:49PM (#11768138)
          Why not censor left wing extremist "hate" sites? Then again, we don't want Germany to ban Slashdot.

          Sorry to burst your bubble, but over here in Europe Slashdot most certainly falls pretty far to the right.. bordering right wing extremist in fact.

          Right/Left wing are relative measures, and not set in the ground.. Kerry would most certainly have been to extreme for our primary right-wing party here in Norway atleast (høyre).

    • Re:America (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Read the headline. Self-Regulating. This is no different from how the U.S. media operates. Self regulation to avoid content deemed objectionable is the norm in the States.

      Guess how many times the GoDaddy commercial was supposed to play during the SuperBowl?
    • Re:America (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) *
      Yeah. It's much better to live in a country where exposed nipples cause national scandals and where cartoon characters like Spongebob are accused of promoting the "gay agenda" (whatever *that* is).

      Not to mention a country where people get interrogated by the Secret Service for saying (quote) "Bush is out of control" in Internet chatrooms (look it up, it happened!) and similar things...

      I don't want to defend what's happening there in Germany, really, but sometimes, it's good to remember that nobody's perfe
  • by Mr. Capris ( 839522 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `sirpacyebot'> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:49AM (#11766809)
    So that means no more Hitler...or anything remotely linked to WWII...i feel bad for the German student writing the book report about WWII's causes...that's gonna be pretty odd...
    • by Stephan Schulz ( 948 ) <schulz@eprover.org> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:16AM (#11767079) Homepage
      So that means no more Hitler...or anything remotely linked to WWII...
      I do not like the German limits on freedom of speech, or the current initiative to censor search results. But it is not as bad as that. There is no problem with historical documents connected with Hitler or the Nazis. What is regulated is "Glorification of National Socialism". You can publish old copies of Stürmer (in fact, many high school history textbooks have at least excerpts), you cannot write "Heil Hitler! Lets go kill some Kanaken!".
      • Still sounds stupid to me.
        You'd think the actions mattered, not if someone just typed something.
      • So under these new rules, your post would most likely be filtered out. Yes, I am assuming they are going to be using some fairly stupid filters.
  • .de (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MP3Chuck ( 652277 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:51AM (#11766833) Homepage Journal
    What's stopping someone in Germany from just going to Google.com instead of Google.de? Would they not then get uncensored results?
    • Re:.de (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mr. Capris ( 839522 )
      Yes...but .de is in a language they know. .com may not be...and, for those who don't know how to use preferences to switch Google to l33t/german, aka the common man, .de would just be more convenient...and would show results in German
      • English is the first foreign language you learn in 99.9% of all German schools (from fifth grade on), so I think *that* wouldn't be much of a problem, especially since Google's interface is clean enough to be used even when you don't understand the language it's in.
    • Re:.de (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Etherwalk ( 681268 )
      When I was in Canada last, I noticed google automatically redirected you to Google.ca, presumably based on my ISP. That being said, I didn't care enough at the time to try to get around it, so google.com may have been perfectly available.
      • I was also redirected to Google.ca for several days in a row (for some reason still unknown to me). This happened whenever I connected from my home computer, which is located in central Virginia. Once you are at Google.ca, however, you can click on "Go to Google.com" which sends you to http://www.google.com/ncr [google.com], which will not redirect you to Google.ca, even if you actually are in Canada.
      • The same thing happened to me - although I was being diverted to Google.uk. My homepage was deliberately set to be google.com, so I found this a bit annoying. Even typing www.google.com into the address bar sent me to the .uk site. I got it to stop doing this by deleting the cookie, and it stopped redirecting me.
      • Re:.de (Score:4, Informative)

        by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:49AM (#11767459) Homepage
        Google does that based on your IP, yes. However, there is a link to the english version at the bottom of the page, and going to http://www.google.com/intl/en/ [google.com] will always get you the english version, too.
    • Re:.de (Score:4, Informative)

      by Captain Scurvy ( 818996 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:01AM (#11766917)
      Whenever I access google.com in another country, I'm always forwarded to that country's google site. google.ru, google.jp, etc. I'm not sure if this is true of Germany, but it seems likely.
      • by ceeam ( 39911 )
        Oh, and of course the google's front page is so overjammed that "Google.com in English" link taking you back to www.google.com is totally unnoticeable.
      • Re:.de (Score:3, Informative)

        by nbert ( 785663 )
        Yes, we end up at google.de

        But since they determine the loacation by IP address it's not really hard to circumvent it. So it won't make a difference for those trying to find such content, but it will at least help google and others to avoid lawsuits in Germany.
      • by hey ( 83763 )
        You can aways use:
        http://www.google.com/intl/en/
      • Whenever I access google.com in another country, I'm always forwarded to that country's google site.

        Try these handy URLs: French [google.com], German [google.com].

      • Re:.de (Score:5, Informative)

        by fiddlesticks ( 457600 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:56AM (#11767536) Homepage
        http://google.com/ncr is what you need.

        (NoCountryRedirect) - takes you to 'real' google.com
  • This just sounds like a way to work together to get the illegal stuff out faster and with less work from each company. I bet this results in a cost savings for each group involved. Instead of one group at each company doing the work, one group overall does it and the results could potentialy be faster and more accurate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:53AM (#11766846)
    Isn't part of the EU constitution a bit about free speech?
    How does that affect these national laws which prevent us from expressing hate openly?
    • by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:07AM (#11766979)
      The EU constitution DRAFT is a piece of crap and a real danger to democracy. It even specifies the goals of state policy as in cuba and regulates what European Parties have to stand for. Most European politicians support it because it provides an improvement of the state of the Union. However this draft is not meant for eternity and I reject it as there are so many flaws. In the European Union currently a "Safer Internet" program is run by DG InfoSoc. In Italy politicians put forward a "self-regulatory" framework as a hosted in the national administration with a government majority.

      See: http://www.eifonline.org/site_16/fil/fil_35.doc


      four members representing the Adherents designated by the Associations that have signed the current Code;

      - two members, one of whom will act as President and represent the Ministry of Communications, and two representing the Presidency of the Council of the Ministers, and specifically the Department for Innovation and Technology;

      - three members designated by Associations for the safeguarding of minors and by the National Council for Users.

      These will be chosen from the participants in the working-group Internet@minori, which has been set up at the Ministry of Communications.

      The Ministry of Communications provides the Secretariat to support the activities of the Committee.


      Italian Parliament is not in charge, it is a private law agreement between Italy and the Internet providers and enforced via private law.
  • Does anybody know how Google's censoring mechanism works? Does it only censor when you visit google.de and shows you everything for google.com or do you get censored content for google.com as well?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So poop sex and fisting will still be available then?
  • Illegal in Germany (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:53AM (#11766855)
    One thing listed was " glorification of violence".

    Wouldn't that mean web sites and game servers for half the games out there could be considered illegal?

    Reasonable laws quickly become unreasonable when they're written too vaguely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:53AM (#11766856)
    MSN already banned searches for "Adolf Hitler" from it's German search engine, which does of course make a lot of sense, as only Neo-Nazi scum would search for something like this.

    People like me who are interested in history would never entertain even the thought to search for "Adolf Hitler" or "Holocaust" on the web.

    After all we might stumble on sites like this:
    http://www.holocaust-history.org/

    Now wouldn't that be terrible...
  • Sorry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by captnitro ( 160231 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @10:54AM (#11766864)
    Mod me down if you want, but I never got how a progressive society in any form could censor content. Now, I understand the historical contexts here, and I understand how the good 'ol USA has in some senses (or at least, in some peoples' eyes) has become a stomping ground for hate groups since nobody else will take them.. but I never got the point of "you can't post that opinion" or "that image, hurting nobody, is banned". I also understand that here in the US we have plenty of laws outlawing things which hurt nobody.. but HTML and GIFs?

    Perhaps somebody from the European states could enlighten me.
    • The children, won't someone please think of the children!
    • Until recently, GIFs were [sorta] banned. Remember Unisys?

      Anyway, I think that the idea (though I disagree with their policy) is that much of what is banned is inciting hatred. Not sure how well it works to ban it, but ...
    • Re:Sorry (Score:3, Interesting)

      by captnitro ( 160231 )
      OK, I'm replying to my own post, but:

      "Forbidden in Germany and restricting the freedom of speech are child pornography,

      Agreed.

      right wing extremist "hate" sites

      Not so much. Not a big fan of the state deciding what's hate and what isn't.

      incitement to commit crimes

      But crimes are fun. :)

      race discrimination

      I might not like it, but..

      treasonable conduct as an agent for sabotage purposes

      Do they have that many websites advocating the theft of German state secrets?

      glorification of violence

      NFL.
      • treasonable conduct as an agent for sabotage purposes Do they have that many websites advocating the theft of German state secrets?

        No, but they do have very violent extremists on the left and the right. I think this is meant to mean sites glorifying the Black Bloc, but loses something in translation.
    • Re:Sorry (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fforw ( 116415 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:11AM (#11767029) Homepage
      I also understand that here in the US we have plenty of laws outlawing things which hurt nobody.. but HTML and GIFs?

      Perhaps somebody from the European states could enlighten me.

      First of all .. what about things like Janet Jacksons Nipple "accident"? Why was there such an outrage over the display of a body part common to half of the population? Where was any harm done? Why did the broadcasting station have to pay a fine? How is that different from banning certain HTML and GIFs?

      There's a different view on what is acceptable in Europe and the USA. Europeans ban violence, the USA ban nudity and sex.

      In Germany there's also an historical aspect to this. After the horrible things which were done by germans from 1933-1945 I find it very understandable that we have laws banning anyone to say it was cool murdering all those people or that it never happened. And somehow it is even expected from Germany to act this way. Every nation has it's radicals and idiots. But when our local idiots march again there's an outcry in the press in e.g. France or Israel : "Look, it's happening again!".

      • Re:Sorry (Score:3, Funny)

        by vanman2004 ( 617113 )
        Which half of the population doesn't have nipples?
      • In Janet's nipple accident, there were fines -- to the stations -- but it wasn't "illegal" in the strictest sense of the term.

        People who chose to, after the Super Bowl, surf to one of their 500 other uncensored networks and view hardcore porn or anything else were free to do so. The difference is that in Germany, they're not allowed to pay $1.99 and get access to their favorite website advocating race discrimination, it was just flat out illegal. It is illegal to read that text, because apparently Germans
    • Possession of child pr0nography is illegal in the US. I think that's moderately reasonable.

      Hate speech isn't all that hard to define either. Are you calling for the subjugation or extermination of a group of humans? Then you are making "hate speech". Not the best euphemism, but not all that far off the mark either.
  • Let me just say... (Score:2, Informative)

    by revery ( 456516 )
    FSM (the "Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers")

    Worst acronym ever.
    You'd think Germans would be better at that sort of thing...

    --
    I saved Latin. What did you ever do?
  • It's spreading! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceeam ( 39911 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:00AM (#11766913)
    What's the difference between PC users and a newborn baby? PC users don't smile when you spoon-feed them. WTF is wrong with the governments today? Do they need to have "we know better" written on everything they do? Matter of fact I'm pretty sure they don't. Or do they think I'd be happy to see Bamby rabbits when searching for "Hitlerjugend"? BTW - does searching for such a thing automatically make me a pro-nazi?
  • by james_bray ( 188143 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:02AM (#11766933) Homepage
    Just use an anonymous web proxy....

    Seems like yet another foiled attempt to legislate the Internet!
  • by mqx ( 792882 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:13AM (#11767049)

    The issue of what content is illegal, and whether it should be or not, is a separate one. The government is the one that's making the content rules, the search providers are just responding -- and doing so by forming a group because it probably makes technical and economic sense. The fact that they are forming a group has no real news in itself: presumably they were already having to supress the content, now they are just working together to lower their pain levels.

    I tried to think of any negative consequences, and only that the group could get into trouble if they acted as a cartel and exchanged price or operating sensitive information, or worked together to filter out foreign competitors or foreign content. Cartel behaviour is a well known phenomena, and easily possibly in the realm of search and information rather than products and prices.

  • by NoSuchGuy ( 308510 ) <do-not-harvest-m ... dot@spa.mtrap.de> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:14AM (#11767057) Journal
    - I am a german, but I am not a nazi. I belive in a democracy and don't want to change that.

    I am not for censorship

    The neonazis say "Die Nazis haben nie Gaskammern gebaut, alles eine Lüge" (Translation: "The nazis never built gas chambers, that's a lie!"

    If you use google.de, you will get the "censored" results. For example links to informations/documetation websites that explain why this was a bad period in german history....
    I think there will be no links to any websites of Garry Lauck" [google.com]

    If you use google.com you will get "the american version" of the results.

    My opinion is that you can not surpress other "beliefs" but you can inform that these beliefs are bad or caused people to behave barbarous against other people.

  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:21AM (#11767128)
    Brian: Yeah, uh, about your pamphlet, uh, I'm not seeing anything about German history between 1939 and 1945. There's just a big gap.
    German Tour Guide: Everyone was on vacation! On your left is Munich's first city hall erected in 15--
    Brian: Wait, wait. What are you talking about? Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and--
    German Tour Guide: We were invited! Punch was served!
    Brian: You can't just ignore those years. Thomas Mann fled to America because of Nazism's stranglehold on Germany.
    German Tour Guide: Nope. Nope. He left to manage a Dairy Queen.
    Brian: A Dairy Queen? That's preposterous.
    German Tour Guide: I will hear no more insinuations about the German people! Nothing bad happened!
    • Yet another example for why I don't find the Family Guy all that funny. This exchange pales in comparison to Fawlty Towers:

      German: Will you stop talking about the war?
      Basil: But you started it.
      German: No, we didn't.
      Basil: Yes, you did--you invaded Poland.
  • by Husgaard ( 858362 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:25AM (#11767179)
    Censorship is never good, and this looks to be nothing than "voluntary" censorship.

    If the content filtered out from the search results is really illegal, the authorities should go after those who put the contents online.

    And if the german authorities cannot stop the contents because it is located in other contries, this kind of censorship is no better than the censorship done by countries like Iran and China. The only difference is that it is called "voluntary". Please note that Germany has a history of banning both extreme rigth-wing and extreme left-wing political speech.

  • by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:35AM (#11767293)
    One of the great benefits to society of free speech is it makes it easy to spot the idiots.

    If someone's a racist asshole, better for all involved for him to be openly proclaiming his assholishness on a street corner for all to hear than for him to be keeping it to himself in his basement. In either case, his actions will be informed by his racism, but in the former case, that fact is obvious.
  • by eMago ( 267564 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:44AM (#11767401) Homepage
    Why you can still argue if the German law is a good or a bad thing in that case, most ranting slashdotters should think about the reason why the founding fathers&mothers of the Federal Republic of Germany installed this law in 1948/49.

    It was because they were still under the impression of the horrifing death the Weimar Republic experienced in the late 1920 and early 1930, leading to the birth of the 3. Reich.

    Nazis came to power because of their demagogic methods, what is called "Volksverhetzung" (special form of sedition) today and the Communists paroles of that time werent much better only on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

    Critical, sensitive, rational thinking didnt reach the masses (voters) at that time. And the founding fathers feared that the masses could be blinded again.

    So like USA citizens see it as an important right to own weapons because of their history and people of other nations might think it is strange, Germans might see it as important to censor Volksverhetzung in any kind because of their own history.
    Keep that in mind.

    For all who want to know more about the background of the dying Weimar Republic this book is perhaps the best:

    Sebastian Haffner -- Defying Hitler: A Memoir
    • by ewn ( 538392 )

      The "founding fathers&mothers" did not install the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften. Neither did they install the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter. Instead, they wrote a constitution which in article 5 [bundesregierung.de] plainly says "(1) Everybody has the right to [...] unhindered access to information from commonly available sources [...] Censorship does not happen". These are the actual words of the German constitution (modulo my rough translation)

      Much like in the

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @11:45AM (#11767407) Homepage Journal
    Knowledge should never ever be censored.

    Never.

    Bending over for absurd rules only perpetuates them, and the tyrants that make them..

For every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat, and wrong. -- H. L. Mencken

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