Germany attempts to censor website on censorship
The district government of Dusseldorf, Germany is bringing the anti-censorship activist Alvar Freude to court. The hearing starts tomorrow, on 7 October 2004. Freude is accused of posting hyper-links to censored websites with radical right-wing content on his website and thus helping to promote the distribution of the materials. Freude on the other hand claims he only wants to make German censorship transparent.
The case dates back to a decision taken early in 2002 by the district government of Dusseldorf. They passed orders to more than 80 internet providers to block access from their users to 4 foreign websites.
Providers and civil rights groups united in protest against the directive, but lost 3 out of 4 court cases, confirming immediate enforceability of the orders. Meanwhile, 2 of the 4 websites have been dropped from the blocking-order (rotten.com, a distasteful but not radical right-wing website and front14.org).
The public prosecutor of Stuttgart now brought one of the most vocal critics of the orders to court. According to an article in the German e-zine Heise he said all hyper-links to radical right-wing websites are forbidden. But according to Freude’s lawyer, linking to right-wing hate speech is permissible in the context of reporting current events.
The Court of Stuttgart now has to decide about the fate of the hyper-link; whether it should always be considered a publication or distribution in itself, and if it is illegal to mention the addresses of right-wing websites even in a documentary or satirical setting.
In a statement, EDRI member FITUG points out that it is very simplistic to assume that all hyperlinks imply an endorsement. Such a position denies the Web’s potential for controversial debate, and threatens freedom of speech.
On his website, Freude documents many developments regarding filtering and blocking in Germany. With the satirical initiative FreedomFone, Freude enables people to have blocked websites read out loud to them.
Website Alvar Freude documenting censorship
Netzaktivist werden volksverhetzende Links vorgeworfen (22.07.2004)
FITUG statement (06.10.2004)