What’s going on with that child porn debate in Germany?

There is an intense discussion in the political German online sphere about centralizing control over access to websites for blocking child abuse content. It started with a campaign by the Minister for family affairs Ursula von der Leyen who urged the telcos to sign an agreement to block DNS access to sites who are identified on lists by the Federal Police office (BKA). The telcos signed it but urged the Minister to pass a proper bill in Parliament.

The position of the conservative politicians is that this is an important step to prevent child abuse content being seen on the internet. The opposing arguments not only by technical experts (read an article by Germany’s leading IT magazine c’t in German) but also by victims of child abuse (read an interview in German with child abuse victim Christian Bahls in German on Zeit Online) are myriad:

First: blocking DNS access to websites neither prevents children from being abused nor does it even delete the content from the servers, it simply puts a curtain in front of it. Experiments by e.g. CareChild (in German) show that all child abuse content that was found on servers in different countries could be deleted within a week by simply telling the hoster. Note the difference: von der Leyen wants to block access while it is possible to take it down completely.

Second: People who consume this kind of content do not find it on websites. They use peer to peer sharing or send CDs for they know it is far too dangerous for them to search on the www. Effective ways to prevent crimes would mean pursuing the criminals with more staff and equipment and trying stop it where it starts: in families.

Furthermore: giving one single institution the power to block websites for a whole country gives this institution very much power. Nobody is allowed to check the lists or even publish them, that would be a crime itself. The bill includes no way for people to get their sites off the list if they believe they got the by accident. Not to talk about the general smell of censorship structures being installed here which could fast also count for copyright protection and finally for any government critical content This last argument I do not understand as grave but rather as an extreme scenario. I think the German democracy and political system will prevent this law being signed in the first place and never will give this much power to one part of the executive system. Hopefully I am not too optimistic, nevertheless it is always important to think about where things could possibly end up in the future.

It is very difficult to discuss this subject. Critics of initiatives like this are accused to attack the fight against child abuse in general. Which is absolutely stupid considering all the possibilities to really do something about it.

Spreeblick posted an interesting and well read conversation about the German plan to implement internet filters by law between Johnny and a reader where the whole story is explained in more details.

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