EU plan to block web child porn sparks German opposition

The debate over whether child pornography websites should be blocked or shut down reignited in Germany on Tuesday, as the EU Commission moved to censor offending content.

EU plan to block web child porn sparks German opposition
Photo: DPA

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström has advocated site blocking, but German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she hopes to convince the EU to erase such sites instead.

Blocking sites is ineffective against child pornography, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told daily Hamburger Abendblatt, explaining that instead it leads to a “huge breach of trust” with internet users.

Both the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the environmentalist Greens have said they support the pro-business Free Democratic minister’s course. Meanwhile her party’s coalition partner, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) have said they support Malmström’s position.

“Internet blocking is technically ineffective and doesn’t work,” SPD deputy party leader Olaf Scholz told daily Frankfurter Rundschau, adding that this had already been proven in Germany.

Green party internet expert Konstantin von Notz told the paper: “Perpetrators can get around blocks within seconds.”

But CDU parliamentary group leader Wolfgang Bosbach disagreed, telling the paper that Malmström’s plan would create a unified standard to fight the problem and would present no danger to users.

“What is forbidden offline must also be banned online,” he told the paper.

In November President Horst Köhler refused to sign a controversial law to block child pornography on the internet following criticism that it would block access to other innocent sites, and therefore amounted to censorship that could breach Germany’s constitution.

The law was written under the previous “grand coalition” government between Angela Merkel’s CDU and the SPD and was pushed by then CDU Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Merkel’s party and their new partners in government, the FDP – who opposed the measure – agreed during coalition negotiations not to put the law into practice.

But because it had already been passed by both houses of the German parliament, it could not simply be dropped. Köhler’s refusal to sign it means it is now effectively stalled until the new government finds a constitutional way to kill it.

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Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners