A Letter of Protest
On August 30th 1996, the German Federal Prosecutor wrote to German Internet providers and on-line services telling them that they could possibly be charged with aiding and abetting persons who are currently the subject of a preliminary inquiry by the German Federal Prosecutor due to an article published in a magazine which offended German anti-terrorism laws.

The German Federal Prosecutor wrote (excerpt): "Under the following Internet addresses ... [the GFP names two WWW sites, which will be not quoted here because we do not refer to the actual case of a specific text which gives cause for complaint, instead we are interested in the act of censorship as such] ..the complete issue is available... [of the magazine who is subject of preliminary inquiry by the GFP. The GFP explains why they deem the text to be illegal in Germany]... We want you to be aware that you are possibly making yourself liable to prosecution by acting as an accessory to criminal offences [according to German anti-terrorist laws §§ 129a,3 and 130a,1 StGB] if you allow the text to be accessed via your Internet dial-ins and host computers."

Although the German Federal Prosecutor merely pointed out the possibility of being liable to prosecution and although the opinion of the GFP as expressed in the letter has not as of yet been proven right by a court decision, several German providers responded to the letter by temporarily (for no longer than 28 days) closing off the WWW sites where the electronic version of the article was previously available to Internet readers. From the point of view of a WWW site, for example xs4all.nl in the Netherlands, the action of German providers (among them the largest German providers) means a blockage of all of their WWW information for a great number of German netizens because of a single web page among the thousands of pages xs4all offers at their site. We think denying access to WWW sites is wrong.

Beside the fact that it is practically impossible to filter the flow of data in order to keep specific WWW pages which are stored on WWW sites in other countries outside of the German state territory when Germans are allowed to contact these countries by phone for example - unless the German government decided upon massive censorship measurements which would be not according to German Laws as they are today - we demand equal rights for Internet providers and TelCo providers, thus making the GFP's letter unsubstantiated if equal rights were applied. So far, neither German Telecom nor the German postal service have been liable to prosecution by acting as assessories to criminal offences by simply transporting telephone or mail data.

Berlin, September 1996

xs4all and xs2all Internet Information!

(Addendum in April 1997:
On April 2nd 1997 the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation told the German Research Net that the text they objected to was still available. This led the German Research Net to look into the matter more clos ely from a legal point of view, after which XS4ALL's entire Web server was closed off. The new blackout began on April 11th.)

back to the letter of protest in german language

To sign the declaration send mail, contaning your name and city you live in with subject "signing declaration about censorship " to tuamotu@duplox.wz-berlin.de

Internet Information (English) by Electronic Frontier Foundation:
http://www.eff.org/pub/Alerts/960918_germany_censors.alert --- German Government
Pushes Blockade of Netherlands Web Sites [Sept. 18, 1996]

Internet Information (available in English, Dutch, German):
http://www.xs4all.nl --- latest news

Internet Information in German language

Internet Information in Japanese