Feeds

German fined for publishing neo-Nazi web links

Freedom of information or inciting racial hatred?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Application security programs and practises

Linking to neo-Nazi websites in Germany can cost you dear. The founder of a German online protest forum - http://censorship.odem.org/ - against web censorship was sentenced by the district court in Stuttgart today for linking to two neo-Nazi sites and a bad-taste website hosted in the US.

Alvar Freude is not an advocate of neo-Nazi content but thinks of himself as a fighter for a free internet and freedom of information. But links to the websites of neo-Nazis Gary Lauck and Dan Block and the legendarily nasty rotten.com landed him with a fine of €3,000.

The case results from the debate surrounding website blocking orders issued in 2001 by the district government of Dusseldorf to ISPs in North Rhine-Westphalia. The authority demanded blocking of the domain names nazi-lauck-nsdapao.com and stormfront.com by domain name or IP address.

Challenges to the blocking orders from several ISPs are pending court hearings. Freude, however, published critical commentaries on and analysis of the debate and linked to the barred websites. For his trouble, the district government reported him to the local constabulary. He was found guilty of "aiding and abetting access" to material published by people "inciting racial hatred [and] denying the Holocaust" - a criminal offence in Germany.

Freude tried hard to convince the court that the Nazi links were merely documenting part of the website-blocking case. To block access was the wrong way to fight Neo-nazism, he argued. It could even endanger the constitutional right to freedom of information, since blocking lists might grow once the precedent was set.

Another provocation to the Dusseldorf authorities was a project called "freedomfone", in which Freude had offered people the chance to call a premium-rate phone number to get blocked web content read aloud to them. "Is somebody restricting your internet access? No problem, use FreedomFone to get the missing information over the net!" reads the promotion.

"I did not expect people to call and in fact nobody called. It's satirical," explained Freude to the judge and district attorney.

But neither found it funny. The district attorney said Freude risked "confusing young people" by making Nazi propaganda available to them. If the only intention was to fight for freedom of information he should avoid linking to the content that he knew was illegal.

Freude's work did not qualify as documentary, according to district attorney and judge. This would protect him against punishment according to an exemption in the penal law. "Documentary is for museums or exhibitions," said the attorney, adding that newspapers too enjoyed this exemption. But this was not the case for Freude. The judge agreed with this analysis when passing sentence: "It is not research, education or reporting," she said, before further declaring the freedomfone project "too flimsy for art".

Freude's lawyer was annoyed by the lack of reasons given for the sentence. In his summing up he argued that Freude had "nothing, and nothing at all" to do with the content of any of the the sites he had linked to. The website, he noted, had been used by the media and other legal experts as source material during the debate and was therefore nothing more than record of current events. "This kind of documentation is not only not illegal, but in fact socially desirable." Freude's lawyer said his client would appeal the sentence.

Difficult questions lay ahead for the German criminal justice system: what is "documentation" and what is not? And who can claim that his or her work is documentation? Would Freude's work qualify as such if he had a title or worked for an institution? The district government of Dusseldorf does not link to the domain adresses of the Nazi websites, yet publishes them on its own website. Is there a difference between a linking to, as opposed to simply publishing a domain name? None of these questions has yet been addressed by the courts. ®

Related stories

German police blitz music-swap neo-Nazis
Germany may strike Nazi sites with DoS attacks
US judge's Nazi net ruling turns worldwide law on its head

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.