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Thursday, February 24, 2005

German Search Engines Self-regulating

The German search engines, Lycos Europe, MSN Germany, AOL Germany,, T-Online and T-Info today in Berlin announced the forming of a self-regulating organization under the hood of the German FSM (the “Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers”). Their combined goal is to streamline the process of censoring content ruled illegal under German law, so that a user’s search results are stripped from such items.

Forbidden in Germany and restricting the freedom of speech are child pornography, certain other types of pornography (like bestiality), right wing extremist “hate” sites, incitement to commit crimes, race discrimination, treasonable conduct as an agent for sabotage purposes, glorification of violence, or offence against the law for the protection of the youth. For example, the game Wolfenstein 3D – a predecessor to Doom – was censored in Germany because of Nazi imagery. So were certain punk music albums popular with German teens.

The plan announced now is to have a central server provide the search engines with the blacklisted URLs. The automatization should mean two things: when it comes to the web, complaints will take effect more broadly and quickly in the future. And possibly, people will put more effort into locating such content and complaining to the FSM using their complaint form. As Google and others effectively serve as our eyes to the world online, a page not showing up in search results might as well not exist.

The founding of this self-regulating foundation does not directly affect servers outside Germany. However they will be affected indirectly, as their content will not be listed in the major German search engines anymore.

[Via Heise.]


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