cr> More German censorship of Net


Richard Moore

Dear C-R,

As we saw in the CompuServe case, Germany already has a version of Exon on
the books.  The current censorship developments in Germany are a preview of
what the U.S. is likely to experience if (when?) Clinton signs the Comm
Reform Act.

Note particularly that the prosecutions are very selective (chosen for
their value as precedents) and are implemented using over-broad sanctions
(closing access to entire servers or content-categories).  They seem
designed to maximize the "chill effect" -- establishing a climate in which
vendors will voluntarily impose self-censorship, to avoid possible

Once the mechanism of censorship is implemented and tested, then further
control over content can be attained by simply expanding (legislatively,
judicially, or possibly by executive decree) the interpretation of what
constitutes offensive material.

Not mentioned in any of our reports so far is the "intentional tainting"
tactic: either government provocateurs or self-motivated sabateurs could
easily upload banned materials to any unmoderated list, bulletin board, or
user-expandable web site at any time, accompanied by a tip-off to
authorities.  Given the chilly cyber-climate, such contraband insertions
could rapidly close down much of the net as we know it, or force it to
"reform" itself radically.

While the commercialization of cyberspace threatens to cut off the economic
legs of the Internet infrastructure, the censorship initiative aims to cut
off the free-speaking head of Internet culture.


Date: Sat, 27 Jan 1996
Sender: John Whiting <•••@••.•••>
Subject: More German censorship of Net

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

From:   Larry or Lynn Tunstall, INTERNET:•••@••.•••
TO:     John Whiting, 100707,731
DATE:   27/01/96 18:04

RE:     More German censorship of Net

>>From today's Mercury News:



Mercury News Staff and Wire Reports

Germany's biggest Internet provider has blocked access to a Santa Cruz
computer service that makes available neo-Nazi propaganda in another
sign of the growing tension over material available on the Internet.

Deutsche Telekom, Germany's national phone company, blocked its 1
million customers Thursday from gaining access to Internet Web sites
maintained by customers of Web Communications of Santa Cruz.

The 18-month-old company offers customers the ability to self-publish
material on the World Wide Web, a fast-growing subsection of the
Internet. Among its 1,500 customers is a Canadian man who has posted
material that questions the existence of the Holocaust.

''We want to make it very clear we condemn anti-Semitism, racism and
hatred in any form,'' said company president Chris Schefler. But ''we do
not monitor, police or control the content of any of our customer

In Germany, computer users accused Deutsche Telekom of overreacting and
said such action could stifle the free flow of information that the
Internet was meant to foster. The block is like barring entry to an
entire bookstore because one title was objectionable.

In cutting its subscribers' access to Web Communications, Deutsche
Telekom's T-Online service blocked access to 129,000 computer routes
into the Santa Cruz site. In the process, Telekom also cut access to
other resources on the Santa Cruz service devoted to such topics as
Santa Claus, deaf people and the San Jose Symphony Orchestra.

''Unfortunately, they're blocking a lot of really positive sites,''
Schefler said. ''We have a lot of really progressive organizations.''

Despite being unhappy, Schefler said there's little his firm can do
because the German organization has done nothing to Web Communications.

Neo-Nazi material is illegal to print or distribute in Germany.
Violators can be charged with inciting racial hatred, but it is unclear
yet how such laws can be enforced in cyberspace.

Telekom blocked access to Web Communications as a preventive measure
while government prosecutors were investigating on-line Neo-Nazi
material, company spokesman Stefan Althoff said.

The neo-Nazi investigation comes a month after the German division of
the CompuServe on-line service blocked access to what it said were 200
sex-related Internet discussion forums, called newsgroups. CompuServe's
action, which affected not only its German subscribers, but all 4
million of its members worldwide, was in direct response to an
investigation into on-line pornography by law enforcement officials in
Munich. CompuServe is Germany's other major Internet provider, with
220,000 subscribers.

CompuServe has not blocked access to the server at Web Communications.
''We haven't been asked to take any action, and we haven't taken any
action,'' spokesman William Giles said at the company's headquarters in
Columbus, Ohio.

The prosecutors' investigation is focused on Ernst Zuendel, a German
neo-Nazi living in Toronto who created the Web site. But prosecutors are
also looking at whether Telekom and CompuServe can be charged as
accomplices for helping distribute the illegal material.

Josef Dietl, on-line editor for CompuServe in Munich, said CompuServe
believed Internet providers should not be held legally responsible for
material posted by others in the unregulated world of cyberspace.

''We are not a content provider. We only provide the access.''

Henrick Fulda of the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg called Deutsche
Telekom's move an overreaction.

''Now an entire server is blocked because there are perhaps 10 pages
there that Telekom considers dangerous,'' he said. ''Who knows how many
other thousands of pages were also switched off.''


Transmitted:  96-01-27 05:04:37 EST


 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.