New York Times, 6.6.97, S. 1:
Germany's Efforts to Police the Web Upset Business

   FRANKFURT, Germany -- With her mohawk haircut and her activism in the
   successor to East Germany's old Communist Party, Angela Marquardt has
   never worried about provoking controversy.
   But Friday, the 25-year-old university student will enter a Berlin
   courtroom to face criminal charges that she assumed were unthinkable
   in a democracy. The charge against her: maintaining an Internet home
   page that provided an electronic link to a left-wing newspaper called
   The German authorities, alarmed by articles in the newspaper that
   offered tips on making bombs and derailing trains, said she violated
   government orders to block access to Radikal.
   Ms. Marquardt said she did nothing wrong, and that people could read
   the German underground publication on scores of Internet sites. "I
   don't see why I should remove the link from my home page," she said in
   an interview this week. "Whether I show it on my page or not, the link
   Ms. Marquardt's case is not unique. German prosecutors and politicians
   are pushing harder than officials in other Western democracies to
   govern the seemingly ungovernable reaches of cyberspace. They have
   pursued individuals like Ms. Marquardt, they have tried to block
   access to other distributors of material they consider obscene,
   violent or a danger to society, they have assigned police who surf the
   Net looking for outlaw sites and they are pressing for a law that
   commercial online services fear could land their executives in jail.
   In addition to their concerns about pornography, the authorities said
   it was illegal to offer "youth-endangering" material that glorifies
   violence, promotes racial hatred or bends morals. Access to violent
   computer games like "Doom" is punishable. So are sites on the World
   Wide Web that offer swastikas and other celebrations of Hitler's Third
   Reich. Such symbols have been outlawed here since the end of World War
   II. Those efforts are now sparking protests from services that do
   business here, including America Online and Compuserve, which worry
   about being prosecuted over things they cannot control.
   Just last month, prosecutors in Munich indicted the head of
   CompuServe's German subsidiary on charges of aiding in the
   distribution of pornography and violent computer games. CompuServe, a
   unit of H&R Block Inc., had no hand in producing or promoting the
   material, but prosecutors charged that the company did not do enough
   to block Germans from reaching material that was illegal in Germany.
   Now, scores of other industry executives are warning that a new
   "multimedia" law, proposed by the center-right government of
   Chancellor Helmut Kohl, may leave them in even greater danger of being
   prosecuted like CompuServe.
   "Would you take a job if you knew that tomorrow morning you might be
   arrested by the police?" asked Hermann Neus, a lobbyist in Germany for
   IBM, who is spearheading efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to
   modify the proposed law. "Industry has the liberty to move to Ireland,
   Denmark and Holland. If Germans are not up to speed, it makes no
   difference to the customers."
   Legal experts said the situation here was just the beginning of a
   broader wrestling match between national governments and the
   nationless Internet.
   "The Internet created a universal jurisdiction, so that once you are
   on the Internet you are subject to the laws of every country in the
   world," said Chris Kuner, an American lawyer in Frankfurt who closely
   follows German cyberspace issues. "The Internet gives rise to
   jurisdictional problems that never happened before."
   Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing the constitutionality
   of a year-old federal law prohibiting pornography and sexually
   "indecent" material in cyberspace. The law, which a lower court ruled
   violated the First Amendment, excludes from prosecution those who make
   "a reasonable, effective and appropriate" attempt to keep such
   material from minors.
   But Germany is pushing the issues further. German officials have been
   threatening for months to file charges against more than a dozen
   Internet access providers, including the German subsidiary of UUNet
   Technologies, because they failed to block access to a Dutch Internet
   site called XS4All. The Dutch server carries home pages for abut 6,000
   commercial customers, one of which belongs to Radikal. UUNet is based
   in Virginia.
   In the next few weeks, Kohl's government hopes to push through a broad
   new multimedia law that is intended to clarify who is liable when
   forbidden material becomes accessible over the Internet.
   In an attempt to soothe online services and Internet access providers,
   the law exempts companies from liability if their only role was to
   provide a communication network for customers.
   But industry executives said the measure had merely heightened their
   unease, because it would also require that companies take all
   "technically feasible and reasonable" means to block access to
   material that violated German laws.
   That phrasing has drawn objections from both U.S. and German online
   service companies. "Obviously, public prosecutors think that it is
   technically feasible and reasonable to block access," said Hans-Werner
   Moritz, a media lawyer in Munich who represents Compuserve. "That
   situation will lead to a number of charges by prosecutors, which could
   take three to five years to be resolved."
   Some of the most aggressive attempts to prosecute purveyors of
   "verboten" material have been in Munich, in the conservative state of
   Bavaria, where the police have organized a small squad of officers who
   surf the Internet.
   The cybersquad is headed by Karlheinz Moewes, a burly, 30-year police
   veteran who gathered much of the information for the case against
   "The Internet providers have much more ability to block content like
   child pornography than they suggest," Moewes said in a recent
   interview at Munich police headquarters. Firing up one of his
   computers, he quickly surfed through hundreds of Internet sites that
   posed possible legal problems here.
   Not surprisingly, there was hard-core pornography. But there was much
   more: the Church of Euthanasia home page offering advice on committing
   suicide; a marijuana home page, and numerous neo-Nazi sites, most of
   them maintained in the United States.
   When the Munich police first put pressure on CompuServe in 1995, the
   company voluntarily blocked access to more than 200 Internet news
   groups. But the company later lifted that blockade, saying that many
   of the news groups had nothing to do with pornography and covered
   important issues like AIDS and breast cancer.
   CompuServe then offered customers free software called Cyber Patrol,
   which blocks their own computers from reaching pornographic sites. The
   software, which is available in the United States, contains a list of
   areas that are off-limits for children. The list can be regularly
   But that did not satisfy the authorities, who charged that CompuServe
   could have blocked access to the forbidden sites. Moewes refused to
   comment on the CompuServe case, but he did say that giving parents
   "child protection" programs did not solve the problem.
   "Programs like Cyber Patrol are not enough, because they are only
   effective if people actually use them," he said.
   Germany's minister for science and technology, Juergen Ruettgers, who
   designed the proposed law, said, "It is the responsibility of the
   states to make clear where the boundaries of tolerance for the society
   Now it is Ms. Marquardt, a former official in the Party for Democratic
   Socialism, who is the focus of what could become a test case. Whether
   she is found guilty or not, most experts say her case dramatically
   illustrates the difficulties of governing the Internet.
   Ms. Marquardt ran afoul of Bonn's federal criminal agency last fall,
   after the police ordered German Internet providers to block access to
   the Dutch Web site, XS4All.
   Founded in Amsterdam by an entrepreneur named Felipe Rodriguez, XS4All
   offers access to the Internet and the ability to post a personal home
   page for about 30 guilders, or $15.40, a month. The server now carries
   nearly 6,000 home pages, one of which publishes Radikal.
   The German authorities were incensed by what is now a well-known tract
   among cyberbuffs, "A Short Guide to Hindering Trains." Officials
   viewed it as an invitation to terrorism, and some German Internet
   providers made half-hearted attempts to block the site.
   Ms. Marquardt, however, defiantly put a link to it on her home page.
   Meanwhile, supporters of XS4All quickly set up scores of new ways for
   people to read it. They copied it onto at least 58 other Web sites. In
   April, after prosecutors renewed their efforts to block access,
   Germany's biggest academic Internet service, the Deutsche
   Forschungsnetz, unilaterally threw up its arms and declared the whole
   effort futile.
   Police officials have not responded to that blatant disregard of
   orders, but they pressed ahead with the prosecution of Ms. Marquardt.
   Indeed, prosecutors added yet another charge, indicting her for
   publishing the formal charges against her on her home page -- a
   violation of yet another law.
   Tuesday, Ms. Marquardt was awakened by Berlin police shortly before 7
   a.m. and served with a search warrant. "First, they wanted to take my
   computer, but then they worked on it for an hour and couldn't find
   anything," she recounted later that day. "I told them I wanted to call
   my lawyer first, but they didn't let me. Instead, they called him but
   could not reach anyone."
   "Since you only have one call," she added, "they just went ahead" and
   searched her computer.
   Michael Schneider, a lawyer near Bonn who represents many German
   Internet access providers, said prosecutors were continuing to
   investigate any company refusing to block XS4All.
   "The XS4All case made it clear that it is not possible to block
   content on the Internet," Schneider said. "But that does not appear to
   be the view of the lawmakers."
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     * XS4ALL
     * Radikal magazine on XS4ALL
     * Angela Marquardt's home page
                 Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company