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German Cabinet approves ban on child porn sites

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet approved a new law to require the vast majority of the country’s Internet service providers to block child pornography sites.

world Updated: Apr 22, 2009 21:48 IST

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet approved a new law on Wednesday to require the vast majority of the country’s Internet service providers to block child pornography sites.

The new law obliges all providers with more than 10,000 customers - 97 per cent of all the providers _ to block porn sites identified by the German Federal Criminal Office that feature minors.

Criminal authorities will regularly update lists of illegal sites and pass them along to providers. Viewers who try to access such sites will encounter a red sign reading “STOP!”

The goal is to “dry up the market for child pornography as much as possible,” said Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Under the new law, providers can also gather personal data to be used in criminal cases against viewers.

This data will not be archived, according to Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries. Once tipped off, criminal investigators will only monitor those trying to access the sites “in real time,” she said.

“An abused child is behind each picture and each film,” the Cabinet said in a statement outlining the legislation. Police statistics show an 111 per cent uptick in Germans viewing child pornography from 2,936 cases recorded in 2006 to 6,206 in 2007, according to the statement.

The Cabinet’s decision comes on the heels of a high profile child porn bust in Germany. Security officials in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg announced last week they had broken up an international child porn ring implicating alleged viewers in 91 countries including Brazil, Canada and the US. Authorities confiscated more than 500 computers in raids across the country.

In the wake of the investigation, five of Germany’s largest providers agreed Friday to block child porn sites on government blacklists within the next six months. The new legislation will expand those obliged to block child porn sites to virtually all providers.

The legislation still requires parliamentary approval, which is unlikely to pose a problem because Merkel’s coalition has broad support in both the upper and lower houses.

The Cabinet hopes the law will be passed in this parliament’s session, before September’s federal elections.