After the German elections on the 27th of September, the conservative and liberal parties, CDU/CSU and FDP have started negotiations to form a coalition government and define their political agenda for the next 4 years. In the last months, public awareness for topics like retention of communications data, internet censorship and the constant destruction of civil rights and liberties had been raised by German civil rights groups and activists. More than in any previous election, these became vote-deciding issues in the campaign.
The FDP had a very clear position towards internet censorship, data retention, and the use of spyware - but the important question was: How much of their position would they be able to uphold in the negotiations? Will Germany continue down the road towards surveillance and total control?
The most important result is about the internet censorship law (Zugangserschwerungsgesetz) passed by parliament this June. Under that law, the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) would compile secret blacklists of websites related to child pornography. These lists were to be passed on to German ISPs who would then have to block access to the sites. The coalition negotiators agreed to put the law under a one-year moratorium. During that year, the BKA will not compile those blacklists or send any such lists to ISPs.
This leads to a weird situation since the ISPs already implemented the infrastructure that is necessary to receive and implement the censorship lists from the BKA. The Federal President might sign the law into force exactly at the moment when the new government decide that they don’t want to use it any more.
Many questions are left open, and we will have to monitor closely whether and how they will be answered. The BKA will have a 1 year “trial period” during which the priority will be to remove illegal content, based on already existing laws. When the moratorium runs out, the results will be evaluated and the question of internet censorship will return to the political agenda.
This is undoubtedly good news and a success of the anti-censorship movement that was formed in the last months by many individuals and organisations. It is proof that dangerous laws and decisions can be fought, and it should encourage all of you to continue the fight!