German government gives up Internet filter law

On 5 April 2011 the German conservative-liberal government decided to give up their plans to establish Internet filters after a respective law to impede the access to child porn websites (Zugangserschwerungsgesetz) was set on hold for more than a year.

The law which was passed by the former coalition of conservatives and social democrats in June 2009 caused resentment by the parliamentary opposition and Internet users. Supporters of the law (among them then Minister of Family Ursula von der Leyen) were suspected of creating a legal framework for online censorship in which the German Federal Police was supposed to gain special competences lacking democratic control.

The debate concerning the law attracted the attention of the German public and media. An online petition against the law was signed by 134.014 people in less than six weeks. Opponents of the law underlined its inefficiency and demanded more effort to delete child porn websites instead of concealing them behind an official stop sign which the government wanted to implement.

When in October 2009 one of the former opposition parties (the liberal FDP) formed a new ruling coalition together with the conservative CDU of Angela Merkel, the law was set on hold due to a demand of the FDP. Instead of filtering web content, the two parties decided to concentrate on deleting child porn websites for a certain period of time. Due to the success of this measure both parties agreed to finally give up the filter law. Following information of the parliamentary opposition the German Federal Police needed four weeks to delete 99% of child porn websites they spotted on webservers in and outside of Germany.