Child porn access blocking law is the entry to internet censorship in Germany

Es gibt natürlich eine deutsche Fassung dieses Textes.

What’s this all about?

Today the German Bundestag has approved a new law: Access to websites containing child pornography will be blocked and redirected to a stop sign. For this purpose a secret list is kept by the Federal Criminal Police Office and sent to the ISPs regularly.

That sounds good. Why are you opposed to it?

Because the law is ineffective but will cause a lot of damage. We fear that it will lead to general censorship. Therefore we filed a petition to the Bundestag. 134,014 people signed it – more than any other petition before. Regrettably the regnant coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats elided it. They simply wanted to get the law through before summer holidays and the election in September.

But German politicians say the internet should not be an unlegislated area.

Surely it isn’t. Using the IP address you can find out, who put illegal things online and bring him to court. Of course child abuse and child pornography are indictable crimes in Germany.

But the initiators insistently depict the suffering of abused children.

Minister of Family Affairs Ursula von der Leyen paints a picture that isn’t quite true. Child abuse takes place offline. In the WWW websites containing child pornography are very rare. The minister talks about an increase of cases but mixed up the statistics with a lot of cases that led to acquittal. In effect the occurence of child abuse and child pornography decreases in Germany.

But the pictures are on the web. Could I find them by accident?

Finding child pornography by accident is very very improbable because child abuse is a crime in nearly the whole world. Pedophiles avoid the web and swap their pictures underground e.g. sending CD-ROMs by mail.

OK, pictures are very rare, but the victims surly want the pictures to disappear from the web.

We demand that such content should be deleted and the creators should be tracked. Access blocking is not deleting but putting a stop sign in front. According to the new law the content remains on the web.

Sometimes deleting and tracking could last longer. Shouldn’t you block meanwhile?

That’s not a good idea. The owners of the web servers notice that their server is blocked. They will be warned that the police could be after them now and run off. Access blocking protects child abusers from prosecution.

And why is access blocking inefficient?

Because anyone can simply bypass it by using another DNS server.

A caucus will control the Federal Criminal Police Office.

Yes, but belatedly and randomly. And the law cancels division of powers because no judge or court is involved. A lot of jurists believe that the law is inconstitutional.

OK, but children seem more important to me than laws. After all there is a caucus.

The caucus might prevent web sites from being blocked accidentally, but it doesn’t prevent censorship itself.

But how can you call it censorship when it’s about blocking child pornography?

You’re right. For the present it’s about child pornography. But when access blocking is up and running, the inhibition threshold to block other content gets lower. Several christian democrats and social democrats already demand that other content be blocked—including legal content.

Besides, not only sites containing child pornography are blocked but also sites that are linking to them, no matter if the link is intended or not.

But the law is clearly about child pornography and nothing else. Democracy will prevent the law from being extended.

We don’t believe it. But even if the law never changes and linking sites are no problem, other sites that have absolutely nothing to do with child pornography will be blocked, too.

How could that happen?

I have to explain, it’s a little bit complicated: In German law there is a topic called „Störerhaftung“. You could translate it with „disquieter’s responsibility“. As such, an ISP could be convicted for not blocking websites with illegal content. It’s a little like accusing a mailman for the content of the mail. But in the past the ISPs never had to block websites because the expenses of access blocking are unreasonable. With a law forcing the ISPs to run access blocking that totally changes.

But it will be a court that imposes the blocking of a web site?

Of course, but think of decisions given in summary proceedings. An example: I have a web shop. A business rival sues me and my shop will be blocked. In the end I might win the case and my web shop is unblocked months or years later. I’m broke by then and the rival has won, even when he lost the case.

Establishing access blocking will make it possible for everybody to block everybody. Especially people with enough money to afford expensive lawyers and a trial. The consequence will be total censorship chaos.

Conclusion: The law does not help against child abuse at all. But it compromises the rule of law, justice, e-commerce and freedom in Germany.