The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Germans protest against data retention, and plans by the German families Minister for Internet filtering to ‘protect the children'. In a separate move, the German government has held talks on  ISP 'co-operation'  on copyright enforcement.



On September 12, 25,000 people joined  the Freedom not Fear  march against surveillance and Internet filtering in Berlin. Timed just before the general election on 29 September, the march highlights the efforts of the German government, and in particular of the families minister, Ursula Von der Leyen, to put in controls on the Internet.


The Germans call it ‘Internet Sperrung'  - Internet lock-up -  and some groups fear that plans already underway for Internet filtering to

‘protect the children' could be escalated into a total ‘infrastructure for Internet control'.  But the draft law remains secret.


There were also secret  talks on copyright ‘cooperation' held over the summer. Following the pattern of the UK and France, the German Industry Minstry held talks with the copyright and Internet  industries, but ignored any civic representation. The existence of the talks emerged in a leaked document posted on wikileaks, which outlined the agenda and some of the participants. The outcome of the first meeting is recorded in this document. 


As has emerged in the EU political debate, ‘cooperation' means that the rights-holder industries want to impose liability on the ISPs, in the form of 3-strikes measures and filtering, and it is unlikely that they have a different agenda in Germany. The leaked document reflects similar positions to those seen in the EU, France and the UK, with right-holders demanding action from the ISPs, and the ISPs telling the rights-holders to change their business model. One interesting point in the leaked document is the German publishing house Burda, which makes a stand in favour of net neutrality.


Until news of the copyright talks emerged, the main focus for German Internet legislation had been a proposal  put forward last April  for a law to filter the net for child pornography.  The Minister responsible was the Families Minister, Ursula Von der Leyen, who has been given the nickname ‘Zensursula ' by civil liberties campaigners.


It has now emerged that Frau Von der Leyen has given herself a wider brief, and wants to put measures in place to control the entire Internet. In a  news report in the Hamburg Abendbaltt , she is quoted as saying ‘we will have a wider discussion, how we protect freedom of thought, democracy, and human dignity in the Internet at the right level.. Otherwise the Internet threatens to become a rights-free chaos-space, in which people can mob, hurt and betray without limit". 


The Arbeitskreis gegen Internet Sperren und Zensur (AK Zensur for short),   an NGO group which opposes Internet filtering, says that she is not just interested in dealing with child pornography, but wants an ‘all-embracing infrastructure for Internet control'. According to AK Zensur, her emphasis appears to be not on upholding rights, but on clamping down.


Frau Von der Leyen has denied that this is her aim. 


Last Saturday's demonstration was co-ordinated by AK Vorrat , which opposes surveillance and data retention. AK Zensur was a participating NGO.


Background on German Internet censorship in English.

A secretly recorded speech by Frau Von der Leyen on wikileaks

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) Berlin: 25,000 march for 'Net freedom, 15September  2009.  







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