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Germany to implement obligatory block on child porn sites

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Germany to implement obligatory block on child porn sites
Photo: DPA
17:01 CET+01:00
Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced this week that Germany will soon require internet service providers (ISPs) to block child pornography sites using a system already in place in other EU countries, but some critics fear it could be used to censor the web in the future.

Von der Leyen said at a press conference on Thursday that by early March she expected the all seven of the country's ISP's – which cover 95 percent of the internet market – to have signed a binding agreement to block traffic to these sites.

"We need clear rules for the internet too," von der Leyen said in a statement, likening a failure to do so with standing idly by as a child is raped on the street. "We want to protect the victims above all else."

The family minister, a mother of seven, has long made the fight against child porn a priority, and said she had recently enlisted Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Economy Minister Michael Glos to help hammer out a telecommunications law that solidifies the obligatory block in addition to the existing bans on child pornography.

The CIRCAMP system, developed in Norway in 2004, blocks entry to known child pornography sites with a red stop sign graphic and a message. So far nine European countries use the system, among them the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Authorities investigate criminal sites and pass them on to providers to add to their banned list. In the Netherlands, for instance, the system logs some 18,000 forbidden access attempts each day in a business that makes millions every year. But the names of those who attempt the sites are not logged and people are also still able to access child porn from internet sites abroad.

But critics of the new system say that officially blocking one subject – even one as universally condemned as child porn – could lead to censorship of gambling or pirated music sites, for example. Von der Leyen rejected claims that the project could limit freedoms in the future, though, saying critics should not "water down the point."

But is it that easy to institute such a blocking program in a new country?

The new blocking system may not even be technically possible in Germany, Maritta Strasser, spokesperson for the German internet business association ECO told The Local on Friday. "Germany has a different network system and needs it's own German approach – it's not a question of will but whether we can."

The organisation is in talks with government officials to help define legislative solutions, she said.

"Of course we share the same goal with the government to fight child pornography," Strasser said. "But we feel it's most important to fight these sites in their country of origin."

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