Germany to implement obligatory block on child porn sites

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.

Germany to implement obligatory block on child porn sites
Photo: DPA

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.”


Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

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More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.