Geert Lovink on Sat, 12 Oct 96 09:22 MET

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nettime: Sabine Helmers: xs4all and xs2all

Xs4all and xs2all
About the German-Dutch 'Radikal' Case

Written for ZKP3 @ Metaforum III, Budapest           
From: Sabine Helmers, Berlin
October 7th, 1996

The grandparents used to tell us kids stories about times
in Germany when it was strictly forbidden to listen to=20
BBC radio news. Our grandparents hid their radio in the=20
basement of their house and only dared to turn it on with
low volume. The family sat closely around the radio and=20
received illegal British broadcast about battles and=20
political information during World War II.=20

The grandchildren could hardly believe those radio stories.=20
We were too young to understand the full meaning of the=20
story and its context. But from our point of view we=20
understood that our grandparents hated censorship because=20
we children had our own experiences with it - our parents=20
did not allow us to watch TV series like "The Avengers".

Today I am a parent myself and I censor my little=20
daughter's TV consumption in order to protect her from=20
nightmares and square eyes caused by watching telly all too=20
intensely. I am responsible for my daughter who is too=20
young to make her owni decisions.

The German Federal Prosecutor is not my father and I am=20
not a child anymore. In order to prevent me from=20
receiving information on Internet which is illegal in=20
Germany, the Federal prosecutor is trying to press Internet=20
providers to keep that information out of my reach.  =20

In August 1996, the German Federal Prosecutor wrote=20
to German Internet providers and on-line services telling=20
them that they could possibly be charged with aiding and=20
abetting persons who are currently the subject of a=20
preliminary inquiry by the German Federal Prosecutor due=20
to an article published in a magazine which offended German=20
anti-terrorism laws.=20

The German Federal Prosecutor wrote (excerpt):=20
"Under the following Internet addresses ... [the GFP names=20
two WWW sites]  ..the complete issue is available... [of=20
the Radikal magazine who is subject of preliminary inquiry=20
by the GFP. The GFP explains why they deem the text to be=20
illegal in Germany]... We want you to be aware that you are
possibly making yourself liable to prosecution by acting=20
as an accessory to criminal offences [according to German=20
anti-terrorist laws =A7=A7 129a,3 and 130a,1 StGB] if you=20
allow the text to be accessed via your Internet dial-ins=20
and host computers."=20

Although the German Federal Prosecutor merely pointed=20
out the possibility of being liable to prosecution and=20
although the opinion of the GFP as expressed in the letter=20
has not as of yet been proven right by a court decision,=20
several German providers responded to the letter by=20
temporarily closing off the WWW sites where the electronic=20
version of the article was previously available to Internet=20
readers. From the point of view of a WWW site, for example=20 in the Netherlands, the action of German providers=20
(among them the largest German providers) means a blockage=20
of all of their WWW information for a great number of=20
German netizens because of a single web page among the
thousands of pages xs4all offers at their site.=20

It is practically impossible to filter the flow of data=20
in order to keep specific WWW pages which are stored on=20
WWW sites in other countries outside of the German state=20
territory when Germans are allowed to contact these=20
countries by phone for example - unless the German government
decided upon massive censorship measurements which would=20
be not according to German Laws as they are today. =20
Xs4all is rotating IP numbers, and most of German netizens=20
never had any problems accessing and the=20
illegal Radikal issue. Internet technology all in all=20
withstands censorship attempts.=20

Despite the pleasant fact that censorship is impossible,=20
the actions taken by the German Federal Prosecutor and=20
German Internet Providers should not be left uncommented.
Written inquiries were made by Elly Plooij=20
(Europarliament-VVD) at the European Commission. The=20
Electronic Frontier Foundation released a Global Alert,=20
SITES". People sent letters of protest to German providers,=20
the Federal Prosecutor and German Embassies abroad. Many=20
mirror sites for the censored Radikal magazine were installed.=20

Contemporary Germany wants to participate in the European=20
Community as a civilized and liberal member state and it=20
is not at all my intention to parallelize today's=20
situation with the Nazi times. But do you understand=20
that I - after receiving the news about this censorship=20
attempt - was reminded of childhood stories told to me=20
by my grandparents?
I really would wish that today people would at least=20
always consider the political importance of Freedom of=20
Information in a historical context when they think of=20
banning texts from the state's territory and of preventing=20
self-responsible adults from reading information.

If you wish to support the letter of protest at=20, please=20
send mail, contaning your name and city you live in=20
with subject "signing declaration about censorship"=20

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