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Monday, July 24, 2006

Why Is Missing in Google Germany?

If you search for in, you’ll see this “white pride” website in the results. The same search in Germany, on, returns no results. Instead Google claims that they have removed results “[i]n response to a legal request.” In Germany, it’s illegal to e.g. display Nazi symbols, or publish Holocaust denials. isn’t the only site censored on, of course... this happens for many other sites as well.

How does Google know which sites they need to censor? One thing Google and others in Germany do is to access blacklist data on a server by the Association for the Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers, FSM (“Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter eV”). The data on this server is provided, in encrypted form*, by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons, BPjM (“Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien”). The BPjM is an official state organization, the FSM is not, but Google and others signed the FSM’s code of conduct as well as their subcode for search engines. Theoretically the BPjM list is directed at young persons, which would mean it powers Google SafeSearch only, but an FSM spokesperson told me the BPjM module is usually used to block all searches., however, is not on this BPjM blacklist module, according to the BPjM. (While the full list is not public and shared only with creators of filter programs, you can email to find out of a particular site is on the list.) Still, the site was ruled illegal in Germany going back to a decision from 2002**. In this case, it might have been a simple act of informing Google Germany to make them blacklist

Google wasn’t available for comment so far.

*The domains in the “BPjM-Modul” database are hashed so you can compare them to other domains, but not read them as a list in sequential order.

**By blocking the full domain, all new articles appearing on the domain will be removed from search engines as well, causing “pre-censorship” which is supposed to be illegal by German law.

[Thanks Arne Trautmann.]


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