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Germany to block access to child porn websites

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Germany to block access to child porn websites
Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen announcing the measures. Photo: DPA
15:54 CET+01:00
The German cabinet on Wednesday approved a plan to fight child pornography by requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to work with law enforcement and block questionable content, but some critics say the initiative won’t be enough.

Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a mother of seven, has made fighting child pornography a special priority in recent months. She has enlisted the help of top lawmakers and Europol to hammer out changes to the telecommunications legislation that would implement the obligatory blocking of websites in addition to the existing bans on child pornography.

“We will no longer tolerate the fact that the rape of children is available on the internet in large quantities in Germany,” von der Leyen said in Berlin.

Most of the country’s ISP’s including Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Arcor have already agreed to take part in the new programme, von der Leyen said, adding that the new law will force others like Freenet and Versatel to comply.

“If a large country like Germany expands technical blocks for child pornography sites, it jump starts the rest of Europe,” Europol head Max-Peter Ratzel said, adding that so far only five of the 27 EU countries had created national lists of blocked sites.

The law incorporates the use of the CIRCAMP system, developed in Norway in 2004, which 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. Experts predict that German could see between 300,000 and 450,000 blocks each day.

But the names of those who attempt to view the sites are not logged and people are also still able to access child porn from internet sites abroad – a fact that has fuelled criticism from internet industry experts who say tech-savvy users can find ways around the block.

Meanwhile data protection advocates say the block could lead to other censorship in the future. And law enforcement is also doubtful that the law will be enough.

“We have to find the perpetrators,” head of the BDK criminal investigative alliance Klaus Jansen said, adding that without better technology and more personnel, “were are helpless against the child pornography mafia.”

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