The dawning of Internet censorship in Germany

By EDRi · June 17, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Die Internetzensur dräut über Deutschland |]

Germany is on the verge of censoring its Internet: The government – a grand
coalition between the German social democrats and conservative party – seems
united in its decision: On 18 June 2009, the German Parliament is to vote on
the erection of an internet censorship architecture.

The Minister for Family Affairs Ursula von der Leyen kicked off and led the
discussions within the German Federal Government to block Internet sites in
order to fight child pornography. The general idea is to build a censorship
architecture enabling the government to block content containing child
pornography. The Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) is to
administer the lists of sites to be blocked and the internet providers
obliged to erect the secret censorship architecture for the government.

A strong and still growing network opposing these ideas quickly formed
within the German internet community. The protest has not been limited to
hackers and digital activists but rather a mainstreamed effort widely
supported by bloggers and twitter-users. The HashTag used by the protesters
is #zensursula – a German mesh up of the Ministers name and the word
censorship equivalent to #censursula.

As part of the public’s protest an official e-Petition directed at the
German parliament was launched. Within three days 50,000 persons signed the
petition – the number required for the petition titled “No indexing and
blocking of Internet sites” to be heard by the parliament. The running time
of an e-Petition in Germany is 6 weeks, during this time over 130 000
people signed making this e-Petition the most signed and most successful

During the past weeks, protests became more and more creative – countless
blogs and twitter-users followed and commented the discussions within
governments and opposing arguments. Many mainstream media picked up on this
and reported about the protest taking place on-line. A working group on
censorship was founded and the protest coordinated with a wiki, mailing
lists, chats and of course employing twitter and blogs. One website
“” created a landing page explaining the complicated
petitioning system and making signing the petition easier and more
accessible for non net-experts.

Over 500 people attended the Government official press conference on the
planed internet censorship, a number of whom used this occasion to
demonstrate and voice their concerns. In fact, demonstrators began attending
some of the Minister von der Leyens public appearances, carrying banners and
signs to raise attention to the stifling of information freedom in Germany.

The net community did not only oppose the governments plans, but also made
constructive suggestions on how to deal with the problem of child
pornography without introducing a censorship architecture and circumcising
constitutional freedoms. The working group on censorship demonstrated the
alternatives for instance by actually removing over 60 websites containing
child pornographic content in 12 hours, simply by emailing the international
providers who then removed this content from the net. The sites were
identified through the black lists of other countries documented on
Wikileaks. This demonstration underlines the protesters’ main arguments:
instead of effectively investing time and efforts to have illegal content
removed from the internet, the German government is choosing censorship and
blocking, an easy and dangerous way out. The greatest fear of the
protesters is that once in place, the infrastructure will be used to censor
other forms of unwanted content, not only child pornography. German
politicians already seem to be lining up with their wish-list of content to
be censored in future – the suggestions ranging form gambling sites,
islamist web pages, first person shooters, and the music industry cheering
up with the thought of finally banning Pirate Bay and p2p.

More information and linklist (only in German)

Kommentierte Zensursula – Linkliste

Links, banners and more (16.06.2009)

The Dawning of Internet Censorship in Germany

EDRi-gram: German Government forces ISPs to put web filters (22.04.2009)

Internet filtering type Loppsi creates polemics in Germany(only in French,

(contribution by Markus Beckedahl, EDRi-member NNM- Germany, Thanks to
Geraldine de Bastion for the translation)