Tagcensorship

Rette Deine Freiheit

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This video is a great (and appropriately biased) summary of the German government laws to censor the internet under the premise of fighting child abuse. Nicknamed Zensursula (pun on the German word for censorship “Zensur” and the name of the minister in charge, Ursula von der Leyen), the plan is opposed by a more and more organized opposition spanning several political parties (and fractions of parties), a lot of NGOs, activists, scientists, journalists, lawyers.

In short: The Zensursula plans won’t help a single abused child, but rather warn the abusers; and the whole project is based on perfectly wrong premises. Example: One of the most-often repeated arguments of the censorship side is that the internet may not be a lawless space – of course it isn’t in the least, all the national laws apply there as well, and are in most cases fairly easy to enforce. While not helping anyone in the least bit, this opens the doors for more classic censorship (think intellectual property rights etc.).

To cut a long story short, this video is spot on. (It’s German, though. If you happen to know a translated or subtitled version, please let me know.)

RetteDeineFreiheit.de from alexanderlehmann on Vimeo.

More on the website: http://rettedeinefreiheit.de.

Net Censorship in Germany: Confirmed

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Censorship sucks

It’s a sad day for Germany, and an infuriating one. The law hasn’t passed yet, but the major parties have agreed (Netzpolitik.org, in German) to introduce net censorship in Germany. It’s all under the pretense of protecting children against abuse, but the draft of the law clearly shows that it will neither protect children nor put a limit on the distribution on videos of child abuse. It also shows how badly an unhealthy mix of under-informed politicians and overly symbolic politics can go wrong.

The German government will censor the internet. What country am I living in?

I am seriously stunned as I’m writing this. How could this come about? Von der Leyen, the conservative Secretary of Family Affairs, pushed this piece of legislation hard and actually managed to get not just her party (CDU) but also a large chunk of the German Bundestag to agree to legislation that clearly they haven’t read don’t understand the scope of, mostly by using harsh rhetoric and fake statistics, pretending she knows how to fight child abuse. Never mind that even conservative newspaper Handelsblatt stated: It’s official, von der Leyen has lied. (Some conservative politicians as well as lobbyists have already stated that other content – copyright infringements, gambling, violent games – should also be considered for blocking.)

Personally, this troubles me on several levels. These laws clearly intrude my private life as someone whose private and business life revolves around the net to a large degree. Also, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) had the chance to stop this madness by withdrawing support and didn’t – despite a wing within the party strongly opposing the whole censorship project.

I’m an adviser to the online youth election campaign of SPD. Panorama3000 and I organize the online campaign for Jusos, the SPD’s youth organization. (The Jusos oppose censorship plans; former head of Jusos Björn Böhning lead the intra-party stance to stop the censorship plans.) Both on a personal level and as a campaigner I must say agreeing to this legislation hurts democracy in Germany, and the ongoing election campaign.

To clarify, and as full disclosure: I will continue to support Jusos in the election campaign; I still think SPD is one of the very few sound choices in the upcoming elections (the Greens being the other), but that’s a personal choice. The thing is: We all need to make it clear that we oppose censorship. This is not something that just affects the geeks and nerds. This affects all of us.

How could we get to this point? This is ridiculous.

Update: Thomas Knüwer of German newspaper Handelsblatt has some comments on this issue: Dammbruch im Internet (de)

CCC Freedom Stick, Olympics Special Edition

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It’s been around for awhile, but CCC‘s Freedom Stick, a memory stick loaded with powerful privacy software, is now also available in an Olympics Special edition: CCC – China – Privacy Emergency Response Team, extra easy to use for non-technical users. It consists mainly of a TOR anonymizer plus mobile FireFox.

Freedom Stick, image courtesy of CCC Image: CCC

Who’s it for? “Especially for people with little experience it is important to have simple solutions to break through walls. For this reason we present the FreedomStick.” And by walls, they refer to the Great Firewall.

Using TOR and mobile FireFox, your connection will be quite a bit slower. But that seems like a pretty fair price to pay for not leaving any traces online.

The software and a tutorial is available here. (If you’d like to support a non-profit while preserving your privacy, German privacy fighters FoeBud sell a memory stick loaded with the software for fundraising, it’s available for €20.)

Beijing 2008: Reporters and bloggers face threats

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Reporters Without Borders: Beijing 2008Sadly, the whole idea of giving the Olympic Games to China in order to get the government to respects human and media rights more has turned out to be a complete and utter failure. Without much commenting on my behalf, let me point out just some of the recent findings of human rights organizations.

Amnesty International (ai) just published their report “Chinese Authorities’ Broken Promises Threaten Olympic Legacy” in which they state:

In the run-up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of “stability” and “harmony” they want to present to the world.

Internet censorships continues, even in the confined Olympic media center:

Reports have just confirmed that foreign journalists working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing are unable to access amnesty.org, the Amnesty International website. In addition, The China Debate, a site recently launched by Amnesty International as a forum to discuss human rights has been blocked in China. A number of other websites are also reported to have been blocked, including Taiwan newspaper Liberty Times and the Chinese versions of both Germany’s Deutsche Welle and the BBC. This flies in the face of official promises to ensure “complete media freedom” for the Games. Internet control and censorship is increasing as the Olympics approach. Many other sites, including several reporting on HIV/AIDS issues in Beijing, have been targeted.

What’s more, reporters and activists (including, I suspect, bloggers) face legal and other threats:

Amnesty International believes that local activists and journalists working on human rights issues in China are at particular risk of abuse during the Games.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) confirms this situation:

Chinese authorities deleted an Internet link to an article that appeared on 17 July 2008 in the prominent Chinese newspaper Xinjingbao (Beijing News) of an interview with a US photographer of Hong Kong origin, Liu Xiangcheng, who worked in China during the 1980s. They acted over a small photo showing men with bullet wounds following the 1989 military crackdown against the Tiananmen Square uprising. (…) The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that the authorities also immediately demanded the removal of the newspaper from newsstands and censorship of the article online. The same source said that several staff on the paper, the editor and the journalist, were facing legal proceedings.

RSF calls for a boycott of the games (PDF). Amnesty International takes a slightly different approach. In cooperation with, as far as I can tell, New Zealand students, they organize the Freedom Challenge 08 in which so-called freedom teams rally support for human rights in China.

Do you know of any valid, up-to-date information sources on the situation for bloggers in China these days?