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Censorship Government The Internet News Your Rights Online

Even More Restriction For German Internet 330

tikurion writes "It's only been a few weeks since the law dubbed Zugangserschwerungsgesetz (access impediment law) was passed in the German Parliament despite over 140,000 signatures of people opposed to it. The law will go into effect in mid-October 2009. Now Minister for Family Affairs Ursula von der Leyen implied in an interview that she is planning on extending the reach of the law, claiming '...or else the great Internet is in danger of turning into a lawless range of chaos, where you're allowed to bully, insult, and deceive limitlessly.' More on golem.de via Google translate (here is the German original)."
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Even More Restriction For German Internet

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  • Umm.. why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NervousNerd ( 1190935 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:03AM (#28923491) Journal

    Now Minister for Family Affairs Ursula von der Leyen implied

    There shouldn't even be a family affairs department. What families do is their own matter, unless they do something illegal.

  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:05AM (#28923497) Homepage

    Why are the most innocuous sounding positions in government, always the most malevolent?

    Minister for Family Affairs
    Home secretary

    I will literally shit myself if my government appoints a minister of puppies, pink ponies and day old baby ducklings.

  • Re:Umm.. why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:11AM (#28923539)

    It's called Social department in the Anglo Saxon world... All countries have "family affairs" departments.

    But besides that I do find it problematic on what the German government is proposing. If they truly did believe what they did, they would actually fix the school system first! The German school system is a mess and is prone to the exact problems that von der Leyen is trying to solve in the Internet. But hey fixing the school system would mean that von der Leyen would actually have to do something, you know her job!

  • " I say Freedom " (Score:4, Insightful)

    by testman123 ( 1111753 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:15AM (#28923555)

    Citizens of the world, dark forces are at work in most of our democracies. They plans to get control of a power tool & medium: the internet. Their aim at restoring the "control on information and the oligopolies" of the previous millennium and extending it further any known limits.

    Most of them claim, it is to restore "good old values". But the real reason behind all those bigotries is the money my friend!
    The fight for freedom as started.

    But, the force of the cipher is among us ;-)
    Are you ready ?

  • by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:17AM (#28923573)

    Or else the great outdoors is in danger of turning into a lawless range of chaos, where you're allowed to bully, insult, and deceive limitlessly.

  • Time machine? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:19AM (#28923583) Journal
    This german woman must be viewing the internet through some sort of time portal; it's already a piece of crap!
  • Re:4chan (Score:3, Insightful)

    by purpledinoz ( 573045 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:22AM (#28923605)

    German laws are pretty strange. You can be sued just by insulting someone. Of course it's hard to differentiate a harsh opinion and a genuine insult. And if you swear at any governmental worker (police, vehicle licensing office, employment office, etc), forget about it. Free speech is not as strong as it is in the US. So the likes of Howard Stern could not exist in Germany. Of course Germans are worried about l33thax0r posting insults on message boards.

    What I find even crazier is that most Germans I've talked to agree with this speech law. I suppose Germans don't value free speech as much as the Americans.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:37AM (#28923683)
    Heil, German lawmakers!!! Über Alles!!!

    Everyone on 4chan understands 4chan. Don't worry about them.
  • wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lordharsha ( 1101875 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:42AM (#28923701)

    the great Internet is in danger

    Pity she can't see that the threat is from people like her.


    turning into a lawless range of chaos

    In other words, a free and uncensored global platform for communication

  • wait, what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by niteice ( 793961 ) <icefragment@gmail.com> on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:46AM (#28923731) Journal

    "the great Internet is in danger of turning into a lawless range of chaos, where you're allowed to bully, insult, and deceive limitlessly."

    It's not already?

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:08AM (#28923841)
    Apparently, some people in the German government haven't realized yet that the Pirate party has made it on the ballots in some places, and that the next election is less than two months away.

    Just keep giving them some more free advertising.

    Completely unrelated, I'd also see some legislation allowing the Federal Constitutional Courts to hand out savage beatings with the clue stick to everyone involved in drafting and passing unconstitutional laws. And they should broadcast it on TV, too.

  • by dido ( 9125 ) <dido@imperREDHATium.ph minus distro> on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:15AM (#28923885)

    Those are some of the finest examples of actual Orwellian doublespeak in the real world. Read 1984 sometime, and perhaps you'll get a glimmer of understanding. The Ministry of Peace is engaged in making war, the Ministry of Truth falsifies history, the Ministry of Love tortures and punishes those who do not love Big Brother, and the Ministry of Plenty oversees poverty and shortages.

  • Re:4chan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by purpledinoz ( 573045 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:30AM (#28923955)
    I guess I should rephrase: I suppose Germans don't value free speech as much as the Americans used to.
  • Re:4chan (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grimbleton ( 1034446 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:33AM (#28923963)


  • Re:4chan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by karstux ( 681641 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:35AM (#28923975) Homepage

    Not all is lost in Germany. Political activism against the ongoing restriction of our civil rights is strongly on the rise. The petition against the censorship law has been mentioned in the article, and our Pirate Party has gained thousands of new members in the past few months. It has done pretty well in the European elections this year, and I think that public awareness to civil rights matters has improved since then. I strongly hope the Pirates will enter the Bundestag (parliament) in September.

    Our government has used pretty underhanded techniques to push these laws, effectively grouping all opposition to the censorship law with child molesters. So if you ask someone on the street if "they're against a law which will combat child pornography on the internet", of course they will decline. On the other hand, if you asked them if "government and police should be able to censor the internet at will", the result would surely be different.

    By the way, this phenomenon is not unique to Germany. In America, civil rights have been whittled away with terrorists as a scarecrow.

  • Re:4chan (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:50AM (#28924069) Journal

    Bullying, insults and deception.... isn't that what all governments do best? Are they going to legislate against themselves?

  • Re:4chan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stachybotris ( 936861 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:55AM (#28924091)

    What I find even crazier is that most Germans I've talked to agree with this speech law. I suppose Germans don't value free speech as much as the Americans.

    I'm going to Godwin this, but only because it's true...

    IIRC, it's not that Germans don't value the freedom of expression, but rather that they're still suffering from a pretty bad case of what we'd term 'pendulum swing'. You see, after World War II ended, they got a little touchy about people being able to openly spew hateful and hurtful speeches. They clamped down pretty hard on peoples' ability to say what they want, though not directly through legislation, and it never really let up. To this day the Germans still remember what happened to them as a nation the last time bullying, lying, and insulting others went unchecked - they started a war that involved a fairly large number of countries and ended up with them losing and, essentially, being split in two. So, as a result, the older generation, and even the current on (albeit to a lesser extent) is really strict about policing itself.

    Penny Arcade's 'Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory' also comes into play here... When hiding behind a screen of semi-anonymity, people with an audience will say and do just about anything to get a rise out of others. This is, unfortunately, part of human nature.

    Given that, it's not difficult to see why they're overly sensitive about what people do and say on-line. They're trying, in their own misguided and ill-conceived way, to put the same sort of self-policing mechanism in place on the web that they use in real-life. But since they have to deal with an enormous number of outside influences (read: every site on the internet that doesn't originate in Germany), they have to use the club of law instead of the softer form of social pressure that works when people are standing around talking in the town square. Unfortunately for them, the 'net and the town square aren't the same thing and certainly don't work the same way.

    Or, to summarize; this law, though probably poorly-written, is conceived with good intentions, though we all know how that goes.

  • by Repossessed ( 1117929 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @04:25AM (#28924211)

    Where the police are British,

    In heaven they write you up as a terrorist for taking pictures?

  • by Mascot ( 120795 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @04:34AM (#28924249)

    To a lot of people the rather abstract benefits of "freedom of speech" are simply not important enough to outweigh more mundane concerns, like not being harrassed by the idiots that seem to dominate everything on the internet.

    Here's a thought: Don't go there

    Nobody's forcing them to surf around the Internet at random. It's perfectly possible to only use it for their country's major newspapers and online banking, if their psyche is so tender they cannot handle anonymous people writing stupid things.

    If the Internet was invasive, I might concede you have a point. But, as the nickname for the law shows, this is about limiting _your_ access, not preventing the idiots out there from doing their thing. It's like instating a curfew to protect you from criminals.

    For the record, I have nothing against child porn filters, which was the original notion of this law apparently. My country's ISPs all have one. The difference is the police decide what goes on that list after they manually check the sites, there's no political agenda. And it's not even a block, it's a warning you can click through.

  • by vorlich ( 972710 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @04:37AM (#28924259) Homepage Journal
    If you are reading Slashdot from outside Germany in English, then don't come to live here. Well, okay you can live in Berlin but you are forbidden to travel any further south and stay off of my snowboard turf!
  • by Sparx139 ( 1460489 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @04:58AM (#28924337)
    The problem for me isn't censoring the internet per se, but rather that censorship often branches into the realms of legal (but not necessarily attractive to the majority of people - think fetish sites for example) activity and can crush freedom of speech.

    So, what do you want? A lawless place with its inherent risks and joys, or a gated community that forces you to leave the toilet seat down, always say please and thankyou, and kicks you out if you walk on the grass? Give me the lawless any day.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @05:26AM (#28924513)

    The problem for me isn't that some sites are blocked. It is the way they do it. The mechanism that is installed here can easily be misused. A hand full of people just can decide what gets blocked. Reporting about blocked sites is a crime. And even if somehow it is published that the blocking of a site was unjustified nobody will get fired for this.

    This is just way too much power in way too less hands without any responsibility. This is begging to be exploited.

    It is not about the freedom to access crap on the internet. It is about the freedom to access information the ones in power don't want you to see.

    Additionally I don't really see how this is helping anyone. If someone commits a crime he should be punished, no matter whether he did it on the internet or in real life. I can't see how forcing others to look away is helping anyone. I lived in the GDR and we had a system like that established. There just weren't any reports about serial killers, rape or child molesting. That didn't prevent that from happening. It just prevented people from knowing.

  • Re:4chan (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @05:34AM (#28924563)

    It's not really ironic.

    If you are bad, you lose privileges. If you scream in the restaurant, you go straight to bed with no story. If you park in the No Loading Zone you get a fine. If you beat a guy with an iron bar you go to jail.

    If your country starts World War II, your government gets put on trial and you get your constitution rewritten by outsiders. Bad Germany. No biscuit.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @05:57AM (#28924701)
    You can read it here [gutenberg.net.au]. But if you don't live in Australia then please ignore that link...

    However I never liked that book--its was boring and the main character is a total sap.
  • Suing for insults (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @05:57AM (#28924703) Homepage Journal

    It happens in most countries, though it's referred to as "libel". German laws are somewhat more stringent, but it's the same concept. Germans also have been bombarded with tales of cyber-bullying in the media, so the public perception is at the moment skewed.

    I think the media conglomerates have played a major role, in first hyping tales of online child pornography to create a feeling of crisis, now in pushing stories of online addiction and cyber-bullying. I have a sneaking suspicion that they see the internet as competition, as breaking the grip they had on media, that they see censorship laws as helping them retain their role as gatekeepers.

    I think most Germans haven't really considered what they are getting into by allowing the government decide what you can see or not. They don't realise how this places them in the same boat as the Iranians and the Chinese, trusting too much that the government won't accidentally block legitimate content. Others who don't have an online connection (like my in-laws) think the internet is a big scary threat anyways, so any sort of censorship is a Good Thing. They still have the "as long as it doesn't affect me" mentality.

  • Re:4chan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @06:16AM (#28924787)

    I even question the intentions of the law.

    The alleged intention of the law is to make viewing child porn impossible or at least make it a lot harder. There are videos on YouTube how it's possible to circumvent the problem in a matter of 10 seconds. Even child protection organisations called the law "short sighted" and "useless", if they were friendly and didn't want to use stronger words.

    Instead, what will happen? Someone browsing for CP will encounter this stop-page. If he's dumb, he'll browse through. If he's smart, he will start looking around for IP masking tools, making it even harder to find them if (not when, but if) a server containing such material is raided and IP logs are analyzed. Over time, the only IP addresses from Germany will be those of TOR exit nodes and similar tools, which in turn will result in a crackdown against anonymizing services.

    Also, some politicians already "thought" about expanding the number of sites, to encompass other "undesirable" pages (like, say, TPB and similar "illegal" pages). Once such a tool is in existance, it will be abused. And I'm not so convinced that abuse has not been part of the idea altogether.

  • Re:There's worse. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @06:27AM (#28924835)

    Not Safe For Work?
    Most of the time it falls under Not Safe For Home.... or anywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @08:05AM (#28925327)

    This eerily and shockingly reminds me of a poem about nazi regime I hears years ago (in german !!) that went something like this:

    - when they came for the jews, I did not protest for I was no jew
    - when they came for the gypsies, I did not protest for I was no gypsy
    - when they came for the mentally diseased, I did not protest for I was not mentally diseased
    - now they are coming for me, but there is no-one left to protest

    let me try to adapt this to the current situation:

    - when they closed down the child pornography sites, I did not bother for I did not care
    - when they closed down the right wing extremists sites, I did not bother because I am not a right wing extremist
    - when they closed down the web sites of the opposition, I did not bother, because I am not of the opposition
    - when they closed down all my sites, the general public could not be bothered

    we are quickly and frighteningly descending to an orwellian state where the gouvernment dictates what we are allowed to see.

    note: I do not have any sites, but hat is irrelevant

  • Re:4chan (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @08:27AM (#28925511)
    Yes, just like if my child were allergic to peanutbutter, I wouldn't try to arrest others for eating it.
  • gesundheit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by visible.frylock ( 965768 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @08:31AM (#28925539) Homepage Journal

    It's only been a few weeks since the law dubbed Zugangserschwerungsgesetz (access impediment law)

    Consistently separating words by spaces became a general custom about the tenth century A.D., and lasted until about 2009, when Germans abandoned the practice.

  • Re:4chan (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheP4st ( 1164315 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:37AM (#28927219)
    What prompted my reply was that Germans too like free spech as can be assesed from reading the summary. Something the poster I replied to overlooked and responded with the usual BS about the US having/liking free speech and Germany and/or EU not.

    over 140,000 signatures of people opposed to it

    I am fed up with us regular people on each side of the pond "shouting" our free speech is better than yours, you don't even have free speech.

    Time to wake up and realize that things are becoming pretty bad on both sides of the pond. The sooner we all realize that neither system is perfect and leave a lot to wish for, we can actually deal with our problems rather than just as our respective governments wants us to, indulge in useless finger pointing!

  • by multi io ( 640409 ) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Monday August 03, 2009 @11:28AM (#28928023)

    TYPICAL GERMAN politics, come up with a screwy law, and make it even more screwy! So I guess what I can take from this is that child porn is ok to see at a university, but not a corporation or large ISP... Yeah that makes sense, really does...

    I guess they introduced these exceptions because implementing the censorship infrastructure on the ISP side takes a great deal of time & money. Obviously only big ISPs can afford that ;)

    Maybe they did it because their totally secret list of sites to be blocked would no longer be secret enough if nerdy admins of 100-customers ISPs as well as unwashed leftist University datacenter operators would get to see it.

  • Lol, Howard Stern? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @01:46PM (#28930369) Journal

    Read up on the guy and just WHY he is hosting his current show the way he is. BECAUSE HE WAS CENSORED OF THE AIRWAVES.

    No country that throws a hissy fit over a nipple has the right to lecture anyone else on free speech.

    American TV is the most bleeped tv in the western world and you critize others? Hypocrasy, you are doing it right.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982