Citizens Referendum: Anti-Censorship Petition Before German Bundestag

May 08, 2009

The night of May 7 a petition against Internet censorship hit the magic number of 50,000 signatures required for consideration by the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" ("Who watches the watchmen?") was the question asked 2,000 years ago by the Roman poet Juvenal, otherwise known for his famous "mens sana in corpore sano" ("sound mind in a sound body") and "panem et circenses" ("bread and circuses"). The question is especially relevant in light of German Federal Minister of Family Affairs Ursula von der Leyen's recent draft bill on Internet censorship as it relates to activities of the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) or German Federal Criminal Police Office, the investigative agency that discretely draws up the nation's top secret blacklists. The BKA would automatically track the IP addresses of surfers attempting to open blacklisted sites, a simple click on a link (that may never materialize) being sufficient for "initial suspicion." This lack of a governance body and accountability can have implications: the Wikileaks whistleblower site recently publicized secret blacklists in Australia, Thailand and Denmark -- countries that already established censorship based on a similar argument of protecting against child pornography -- showing a massive number of entries that have nothing at all to do with child pornography. Instead, online poker sites, YouTube links, Wikipedia entries, political discussion forums and the usual porno sites get blocked -- and the list is steadily growing.

An online public petition directed to the Bundestag that should stop the von der Leyen law has meanwhile reached over 55,000 signatures. The Bundestag's FAQ website gives the criteria for petitions:

"If a petition is supported by 50,000 or more signatures within three weeks of its issuance (in the case of a public petition, from publication on the Internet), the Petitions Committee will, as a rule, hold a public hearing where the petitioners are invited to present their case."

Franziska Heine, main spokesperson for the petition, who was interviewed on Saschalobo.com May 5, will be the one to present the case in the Bundestag. The 29-year-old, who lives in Berlin, will get inspiration from the demonstration held there mid-April against "Zensursula" (as von der Leyen and her eponymous law is knicknamed) by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). But Heine doesn't want the activism to end with the CCC, thus the reason for handing in the petition. Heine in the SaschaLobo interview:

"It's not about weird nerds and geeks being deprived of their playthings. It's about structures being put in place that deprive citizens of their basic rights, and that is not acceptable! It's not right to capitalize on certain themes without getting to the root of the problem. In a society that derives more and more of its information from the Web, we shouldn't have lists where nobody knows what's on them and why. Quite normal people moving about the Internet shouldn't fear and worry about having to stumble upon websites with stop signs."

The 50,000 signatures are only the minimum required for the Bundestag's consideration of a petition, where "as a rule" is still open to interpretation enough to leave the Bundestag a loophole. However, the more signatures, the stronger the signal the community will send politicians.

The Bundestag petition site server is currently overburdened and has a slow response rate. Refreshing the site should be avoided, mainly to allow new signatures to be added. In fact, a specially designed Mitzeichner (co-signers) Twitter site was created to show the current signature count without overburdening the government server.

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Comments

  • How to sign the petition

    Hey everyone,
    I just want to point out (or try to with my bad English) that EVERYONE in the whole world is allowed to support this petition, because german constitution grands everyone to write petitions to the german parliament (or any other public institution of germany). This right has the totality of a human right in germany (some might say, because we are a nation of complainers blunk) - Even childern, foreigner ... may. Everyone means everyone.
    If you can read German, in this thread of the discussion site of the online-petition, you can read exactly the laws that grand you these rights:

    https://epetitionen.bundestag.de/index.php?topic=1564.0

    (starts with a discussion to fill out the registration correctly - later that foreigners are allowed to sign the petition also)

    So - why should foreigners sign a petition - THIS petetion - in germany:

    1.) Even if you are a visitor in Germany, you have the right (again granted by german constitution) to get information by every (legal) public source you like - without censoring. Of course child porn illegal. But the mechanisms to block this content can easily exended to every content - and there are no general control mechanisms - the BKA (german FBI) decides by itself which sites should be blocked - the perfect mechanism for censoring.

    2.) If you are in germany, and let’s say, go to an internet cáfe or use the connection of your hotel - and you reach a blocked website with bad luck, your IP is stored by the BKA. And the BKA has then officially thinks you are searching for cild porn - and because you are using internet not from home - there is the danger that it is not possible to find you the very next day. It might be not nice, if the police awaits you in the lobby of your hotel - only because some spambot or cyber-worm “helps” you to find illegal sites.

    3.) The lists of blocked sites are secret. If you are not using a german provider, you will never know if YOUR homepage, blog, commercial website, ect. is blocked.

    4.) This is an infrastructure for censoring - and we all know, if its installed, it will be used and extended. Do anyone in the world wants to have the germany Nation to be uninformed, wrong informed, censored? - AGAIN. History shows - we can do this quite effective and with uncontrolable consequences.

    sign the e-petition to show, that even foreigners don’t want Germany to be censored again.

    1.) make an account on the petition portal of the german parliament:
    https://epetitionen.bundestag.de/index.php?action=register

    email (repeat email), password (repeat password)

    And then your name and adress:
    Frau/Mann = Mrs./Mr.
    Name = sirname
    Vorname = first name
    organisation = institution, company… (optional)
    Titel = academic title if any (optional)
    Straße und Hausnummer = street and house number
    Postleitzahl = postual code/zip code
    Wohnort = place of residence/city
    Land = country
    Bundesland = federal state of germany/foreign countries - choose the last one (AUSLAND) if you are not living in germany
    Telefonnummer = telefon-number (optional)

    then activate option “Ich bin einverstanden” - which says, you are ok with the privacy-policy of the portal.

    At last prove, not to be a bot with:
    “Visuelle Verifizierung” - type in the letters you see in the picture on the bottom of the site,

    Then push “Registrien”-Button.

    Your username is generated automatically: “NutzerXXX” - XXX is a number.

    2.) sign in with the username and your password.

    3.) Sign the e-petition:
    You find the right one at:
    https://epetitionen.bundest...ition;sa=details;petition=3860

    click on: “Petition mitzeichnen” - sign petition
    Its in the field “Anzahl Mitzeichnungen” (number of signings) - the forth blue box.

    Congratulations: You have signed a e-petition to the german parliament - against censoring the internet.

    greetings,
    M.A.
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