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German police boot down doors of Wikileaks offices

Authorities advance boundaries of internet censorship

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Analysis Government's tendency to moprh from blocking "child porn" to censoring discussion of all government censorship was illustrated this week when German Police raided the offices of Wikileaks Germany.

The German plods hit the whistle-blowing and anti-censorship group with the officially stated aims of "discovery of evidence" for "distribution of pornographic material".

The raids were carried out in Dresden and Jena on the homes of Theodor Reppe, who holds the domain registration for wikileaks.de - the German equivalent of wikileaks.org.

As well as wasting the time of 11 detectives involved in this raid, Wikileaks claim that police requested the passwords to the "wikileaks.de" domain, asked that the entire domain be disabled, failed to inform Mr Reppe of his rights, and then issued false statements claiming that Mr. Reppe had agreed to "not having a witness" present.

According to Wikileaks, the Police would give no further information to Mr. Reppe and no contact was made with Wikileaks before or after the search. Wikileaks are therefore in the dark as to exactly why the raid occurred.

A factor in the German police action may be the undertaking given by Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen that, by March, seven of the country's ISP's - which cover 95 percent of the internet market - will have signed a binding agreement to block traffic to child pornography sites.

Wikileaks’ view that information is a key ingredient in the freedom of the press is likely to have made it some powerful enemies, and led it to be lumped in with child pornographers in the eyes of the authorities.

Over the past year, it has published the "block lists" used by a number of countries – including Thailand and Denmark – to censor individual access to the web. In the last week, it published the list currently being used in trials of the "great Aussie firewall". To the embarrassment of the Australian government, about half the links on the published list related to material other than child porn, and included online poker sites, fetish, satanic and Christian sites.

Officials for the Australian Government have claimed that not all the links published by Wikileaks are on their list, and Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy issued a press release stating:

"There are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. However, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) advises that there are URLs on the published list that have never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation, and have never been included on the ACMA blacklist."

Unfortunately, Australians will not be able to assess for themselves, because in a further twist to the story, the list of sites that may be subject to censorship has itself been added to the secret Australian blacklist of "Prohibited Online Content" – and censored.

An Australian anti-censorship activist submitted the Wikileaks page to ACMA, requesting that they censor it, under their internal guidelines. Their intention was to expose the "slippery scope" of the proposed Mandatory Internet Censorship scheme – and without so much as a hint of irony, ACMA complied.

Not only is it now prohibited to look at certain sites in Australia, it is prohibited to know which sites are prohibited.

This echoes developments in the Czech Republic, where an anti-censorship site was also subject to blocking via a Vodafone blacklist.

In the end, none of the Wikileaks domains were affected by these raids. However, this action must cause serious concern for all those who believe governmental restrictions on free speech are getting out of hand.

In Australia, during the last year, a tactic of those seeking to block the internet was to insinuate that those who questioned such a block were soft on child porn and might have a pro-paedophile agenda.

Now that that slur has been rebutted, the next step may be to extend the definition of distribution of child porn: not merely hosting it or passing it to third parties; but merely informing other people of where it is accessible. ®

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