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Censorship Your Rights Online

German State Alters DNS To Censor Web Sites [updated] 261

Rabenwolf writes: "In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the first ISP (ISIS Multimedia) has given in to pressure from the state government and has started to block foreign websites with supposedly "illegal content" by changing the corresponding DNS entries. ISIS customers trying to access these sites are redirected to the website of the local government. ISPs in North Rhine-Westphalia will have to pay a fine if they continue to provide access to sites with "illegal content" through their DNS servers. It's not as bad as China or Saudi-Arabia, but it makes you think... An article from the heise newsticker is here, and if you don't sprechen Deutsch, Google might help." Update: 11/22 15:23 GMT by T : As sqrt points out, this report is misleading: "A single technican altered the DNS Entries to demonstrate it is possible. His changes were already reversed. Heise already posted a new story about this today."
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German State Alters DNS To Censor Web Sites [updated]

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  • Well.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Captain Zion (33522)
    Just use a different name server then.
    • What about the people that can't (or don't know how to) change their nameserver?
      • Make a fuss about it. Create webpages that tell people how to change their nameserver. With examples obviously.

        If you're talking about home PCs why would they be unable to change their own DNS servers (Apart from a lack of knowledge)?
      • If they don't know how to then will have to help them. After all, that's what friends are for.

        If users can't (i.e., *AOL-HELL* users, they are probably a lost cause already.

        Besides, a slashdot denizen just told *them* how to do it, if they are willing to take five minutes on google (or with the most basic internet book or magazine) to figure it out.

        Failing either of these alternatives, they are a dead loss.

        D
      • What about the people that can't (or don't know how to) change their nameserver?

        Then they won't have the benefit of being part of the underground ;). At the end of the day anyone really wanting to access to that information will do their best to learn of the alternative solutions or compaign the government for their civil liberties - if they are not doing that then the information obvisually didn't mean much to them in the first place.

        If someone had the need to access the information, then they could easily connect to another ISP in another country via phone lines if all routes via the local section of the internet are blocked - of course it would cost more, but it all depends on much that information means to them.

    • Just use a different name server then.

      The ISP could, however, transparently proxy DNS requests. Unlikely, admittedly - why bother propping up a measure that's as weak as DNS-fudging in the first place?
      • It could be that they are using these weak measures to actually allow the brighter people to access the sites that they want to and just to make the goverment happy.
      • The ISP could, however, transparently proxy DNS requests. Unlikely, admittedly - why bother propping up a measure that's as weak as DNS-fudging in the first place? According to the Heise article linked in another post, the technician responsible wanted to show that a DNS block would be possible but useless, since it could be circumvented easily. Seemingly, he acted on his own, not backed by the ISP management.
  • Pathetic attempt (Score:5, Informative)

    by kieran (20691) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @10:46AM (#2600296)
    Anyone finding themselves redirected can use any number of simple DNS tools to find out the real IP (by querying a root server, then the authorative server), then simply access the site by IP rather than FQDN. This may sound a little technical for Johann average, but not when simple instructions are made available to them.

    (This would not work with sites that rely on HTTP1.1 to tell them the name of the site, so that many sites can be hosted on a single IP, but that is less widely used than it might be.)
    • >(This would not work with sites that rely on
      >HTTP1.1 to tell them the name of the site, so >that many sites can be hosted on a single IP, >but that is less widely used than it might be.)

      Just add the server name to your local HOSTS file.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, shame about the HTTP 1.1 thing. On the bright side IE already provides this service via MSN if a domain name doesn't resolve so this ruling could well mean all people have to do is click on 'GO'
    • Anyone finding themselves redirected can use any number of simple DNS tools to find out the real IP (by querying a root server, then the authorative server), then simply access the site by IP rather than FQDN. This may sound a little technical for Johann average, but not when simple instructions are made available to them.
      Yeah, like the avarage T-Online user even knows what an IP address is.
    • Re:Pathetic attempt (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cyberdyne (104305)
      (This would not work with sites that rely on HTTP1.1 to tell them the name of the site, so that many sites can be hosted on a single IP, but that is less widely used than it might be.)

      Also, you can put the IP address in the hosts file; then, everything will work fine. Or just run your own DNS daemon locally (djbdns [cr.yp.to] is good for this), which is easy on *nix platforms, and you won't even notice the site being "censored" :-)

      Of course, if too many people do this, the govt might grow a brain and try a more effect means of censorship; on the plus side, one-way air tickets are quite cheap these days...

    • Well actually ... no. Having the correct IP does little good.

      A lot of ISPs use a transparent proxy for outgoing requests. If they find a packet heading for port 80, they grab it and route it via their own proxy servers. The proxy server does its own lookup via its own dns cache, and makes the request on your behalf. No matter what result you may be getting for DNS lookups, if their cache snaffles your packet, then it is all a waste of time.

      Have a read of this post to NZLUG [linux.net.nz].

      • If you pass the proxy a URI based on an IP rather than on a domain name, it wouldn't even have to look at it's own DNS cache (unless it's been set up to do a reverse DNS request on numeric addresses)
  • IP addresses? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @10:48AM (#2600302) Homepage Journal
    If this is based on DNS entries, tnen what is stopping people using the IP addresses instead?
    • Re:IP addresses? (Score:3, Informative)

      by WWWWolf (2428)
      If this is based on DNS entries, tnen what is stopping people using the IP addresses instead?

      Well, this one little thing: Virtual hosts... If there's multiple DNS names pointing on same server, the server hicups if it sees someone wanting just the page and not providing the host name in Host: header.

      • Re:IP addresses? (Score:3, Informative)

        by platypus (18156)
        Well, this one little thing: Virtual hosts... If there's multiple DNS names pointing on same server, the server hicups if it sees someone wanting just the page and not providing the host name in Host: header.

        Well, two little things (one for *nix, one for windows nt):
        • /etc/hosts
        • $WINDIR\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
    • Re:IP addresses? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Skapare (16644)

      "Virtual host by name" where you have many sites on one IP address (encouraged by the folks who bring you fewer than 4 billion addresses) identified by a "Host:" header in HTTP/1.1 is what is stopping them. It's a whole lot easier to just change the DNS server settings (Settings > Control Panel > Network > TCP/IP (your adapter) > Properties > DNS Configuration) to use a DNS server outside the country. Those with BSD/Linux/Unix/WinNT/Win2K/WinXPpro of course can run their own DNS server.

  • by Mike Connell (81274) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @10:48AM (#2600304) Homepage
    (From Google)
    The entrance offerers had questioned thereby whether the entrance to unpleasant, abroad can be prevented gehosteten Websiten at all effectively.

    I think I might as well just learn German ;-)
    • (From Google)

      The entrance offerers had questioned thereby ether the entrance to unpleasant, abroad can be prevented gehosteten Websiten at all effectively.

      I think I might as well just learn German ;-)
      Go right ahead:
      Die Eingangsanbietenden hatten dadurch gefragt, ob der Eingang zu unangenehmem, auswärts verhindert werden kann gehosteten Websiten an allen effektiv.

      (Boy, that is way above RSA.)
  • by absolut_kurant (152888) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @10:48AM (#2600305)
    according to this [heise.de] article on heise, the restriction is no longer in effect. According to the press officer, a technician did it on his own and not in accordance with company policies.
    • In this Press-Release [bezreg-due...orf.nrw.de] (german of course) the government claims that the ISPs efforts must have been effective because of all the e-mails they received from people complaining about this sort of censorship. I wonder how many consumers of Nazi-content are among those who (like me) protested against the governments course to violate some of our constitutional rights.
      • Here is a translation of the press statement:

        Northrhine-Westphalian Internet Provider's attempt to block radical right wing Internet-content [was] successful at first

        Attempt by "ISIS" regrettably cancelled, 12 providers keep up the ban

        A successful attempt to block radical right wing Internet-content as an access provider has been stopped today by the Duesseldorfian company "ISIS" after it had been successful at first. Like 12 other access providers "ISIS" had blocked radical right wing Internet content at short notice, after the Bezirksregierung Duesseldorf [local government] in their function as responsible supervision authority in the sense of the Mediendienste-Staatsvertrag [mediaservices-statecontract, law] had threatened to start administration proceedings in order to have the content blocked and impose fines up to 1 million german marks [about 450000 US-$].

        This noon however the ban of radical right wing Internet content had been revoked by the company "ISIS". "ISIS" had redirected negative email-feedback concerning the blocking with a link to the Bezirksregierung Duesseldorf [local government]. The Bezirksregierung assumes that according to the content of numerous emails, which have been received today, many of those came from users of radical right wing sites. This is particularly derived from the the fact that employees of the Bezirksregierung have been threatened for their anti radical right wing activity by these email-senders.

        The Bezirksregierung Duesseldorf explicitly welcomes the blocking attempt by "ISIS" as well as the still ongoing blocking of radical right wing Internet content by twelve other access providers. These measures by "ISIS", which had been successful over the course of several days, prove that blocking is easily technically possible and effective. The reaction of the presumed users shows that they had been successfully stopped from accessing these sites.

        The Bezirksregierung Duesseldorf explicitly welcomes that access providers have acted in a self-regulatory manner, because this way government interference would become unnecessary. It is regrettable that under pressure by users who apparently conciously use radical right wing sites on the Internet, company "ISIS" in Duesseldorf has foregone self regulatory measures.

    • Results of Babelfish on the Heise article:

      Isis takes blocking back from Internet pages

      The Duesseldorfer Internet provider Isis [altavista.com] took the blocking back of four [altavista.com] on-line supplies again. " the barrier decreased/went back to the initiative of an individual technician. It corresponded not to the policy of the enterprise ", said Isis speaker Thomas Werz. It concerned itself thereby around four pages with right-wing extremists as well as force-wonderful-ends to contents from the USA, which were attainable for the Isis customers for Monday no longer.

      The technician had wanted to demonstrate on own fist that a technical solution for the blocking from Internet pages was possible, in addition, easily to be gone around can, avowed Werz opposite heise on-line. This should not have occurred however in all public; Werz apologized in the name of the company at the customers. Isis aims at a political solution with the Duesseldorfer district government.

      From Monday to today one had gone out in the enterprise erroneously with it, the technician in arrangement with the management concerned, stressed Werz. Accordingly a Isis spokeswoman had justified the side blocking yesterday in relation to the public.

      During his public demonstration the technician had followed arbitrarily a request of the district government Duesseldorf. This had before reminded the ACCESS Provider as North-Rhine/Westphalian supervision of Internet to lock four pages from the USA. Approximately ten Provider reacted according to specification of the authority country-wide so far to it [altavista.com]. The measures are strongly disputed in the Internet municipality. Thus the chaos computer club called [altavista.com] the attempts of the district government to let Internet pages lock censorship in the Internet. "this is a crucial step into the false direction."

      The district government Duesseldorf [altavista.com] tries as country-wide Internet control instance for some time to let pages with illegal contents lock by the ACCESS Provider [altavista.com]. On 13 November a hearing with 90 Internet Providern took place for this reason. At that time the providers referred particularly to technical problems, in order to lock pages from the foreign country. According to estimations of the Federal Criminal Investigation Office (BKA [altavista.com]) approximately 90 per cent of the more than 1000 right-wing extremists German-language Internet supplies from the foreign country are fed into the network.

      See to the topic also the contribution network barrier for Fritzchen stupid [altavista.com] in Telepolis. (anw [mailto] / c't)

      Ah, good old machine translation. Yet, it's still Better than Nothing. "force-wonderful-ends" :)

    • Several other providers, including at least one university, still block the sites. Some have more effective blocking than DNS redirection in place.
    • According to
      http://heise.de/newsticker/data/fr-22.11.01-001/
      the block is back on.

      Looks like today is the day of firm decision...or is it... well maybe... but no, yes it is.
  • by SmileyBen (56580) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @10:52AM (#2600322) Homepage
    I really hope people actually think about this before replying about how this is simply wrong. Different countries have different ways of dealing with things. In America, for example, Freedom of Speech is enshrined in law - this gives an enormous amount of protection to citizens from their government, which is good, but also ensures the right of racists and others to say what they like, and recruit new members. In other countries, they frequently take a different approach, and for example consider protecting minorities from hate speech to be more important than letting everyone say whatever they like.

    I wish people would understand that these are simply different ways of going about things, and certainly each has its own advantages and disadvatages. I don't honestly think, for example, that one groups is simply correct about gun ownership - perhaps America /is/ correct to claim that citizens need to be able to assert control, and not be powerless against their own government, but there are clear disadvatages. The same with speech - given no censorship, and no ability to assert local laws over internet content has major disadvantages, as well as the obvious advantages.
    • I've alwas been a big fan of thought control.
      • by linca (314351)
        It is not "thought" control, it is "publication" control. Not the same thing. You can even speak about it with your friend, you know. The word Nazi hasn't been deleted. But of course, If you don't mind seeing Germany under Nazi rule again ( America has an history of supporting right-wing dictatorships in South America, after all...), Then let them speak. Then, ten years later, YOU go fighting them. Free Speech didn't work to avoid totalitarian regime, in the 30's. Because of that, in 1945, the Americans (along with others), have forbidden any German to promote Nazism. It seems the Germans want to keep this law.
    • Actually, freedom of speech is also in the german law, but it has exceptions: you may not say things like "nobody was ever killed in Auschwitz" (because that would be a big fat lie) or similiar Nazi shit. It's like you said, it is important to say what you like, but there have to be limitations when it comes to hate speech, racist saying and simply false statements about our very sad history.

      I personally think this is a Good Thing (tm), because normally you never have a problem with this, unless you're a Nazi. And we don't like to have Nazis any more (unfortunately there are still some left, especially in East Germany, but those are just a very stupid very small minority).

      I also totally agree with you that there are simply different ways of doing things: our freedom of speech is limited because of our history, and as long as only hate speech and Nazi propaganda are banned, things are fine. You may still say "I think Gerhard Schroeder is an asshole" (which I don't think, but it's a fine example ;-) without getting any trouble.

      • by Skapare (16644) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:40AM (#2600490) Homepage
        and as long as only hate speech and Nazi propaganda are banned, things are fine.

        But once you have the mechanism in place to enforce whatever is banned, it becomes easy to do so. Let some time pass and people are comfortable with it. Now something more can be banned and it will have a little resistance but with time that settles down. Wait for some troubling times, as Germany suffered right after World War ONE, and things are ripe ... and the mechanism is in place ... to let the Nazis or other ill-intent groups have their way.

    • Well, since the speech in question (I don't read German so well-- so I'll assume this is mostly about Nazi propaganda, which is the main free speech issue I've seen talked about in Germany) is essentially anti-democratic and seeks to deprive others of their human rights, I don't see how it can be considered anything less than treasonous. I think the German government are taking this too far, though. By going to this sort of extreme, they are only feeding an us versus them situation, where what is needed is a shrug, a "huh. that sure is some stupid racist nonsense", and an effort to address any real issues that are causing the racists to think their problems are somehow going to be solved by scapegoating jews, blacks, Elbonians, whoever.

      Of course, I'm an American who could care less about being able to advocate racist totalitarian governments, but I'm concerned that in their zeal to prevent further atrocities, the German and French (and others?) governments are likely to wipe out honest assessments and careful historical discourse. There is some real danger to whitewashing the problem, and in so doing allowing some deeper issues to go undiscussed and unsolved. This sort of repression (whether in individuals or in societies) seems to be linked to uncontrolled outbursts of bad behavior.

      But in general the German government is doing at least as well as the USA in giving its citizens a land where liberty, freedom, and happiness are available to all on an equal basis. The German people affected by this elected their leaders in fair elections (as far as I know), so I assume if this really is against the will of the German people that they will vote their current government out in favor of one that will rewrite these laws.
      • Is it not ironic that the current (not Nazi) German government is adopting some of the mechanisms that the Nazi government of the past used (and perhaps introduced) to promote their way of life and "discourage" others? Maybe they can bring back the concentration camps for the hate mongers. And the people might be inclined to accept that as long as it is just for the hate mongers.

        Of course USA has problems, too. I think that if people want to be free (including being free to decide for themselves what evil ideas they want nothing to do with) from government control, they have to do so in unison throughout the world. I cannot just disregard the oppression in France or Germany just because it might not be as extreme as it has been in Afghanistan, or because there happens to also be some in the USA. To me it is consistency to speak out against it in any country (and vote against it in USA). And yes, I realize there is the risk that exercising my right to free speech can put me in violation of the law in certain places like The People's Republic of China and Saudi Arabia and subject me to arrest there even though the speech was done in America.

    • by fhwang (90412) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:14AM (#2600389) Homepage
      Anti-hate-speech laws, whether in Germany or Francs or the U.S., seem to be predicated on the idea that the speech itself has some sort of magical power over people's minds. I think that's very wrong, and it distracts attention from where it's needed most.

      A number of different groups would have you believe that the swastika was this magical symbol that automatically turned rational people into genocidal creatures: All you do is hide the swastikas and everything's okay. Remember that the Holocaust had a very specific economic and political context: For a number of reasons, the German people had endured one of the worst economic declines ever to be suffered by an industrialized nation, and they were terrified and desperate. This does not excuse what happens, but it gives a much more sensible explanation than what normally passes for historical analysis -- "We need to keep the images of swastikas away from impressionable white kids", or "Germans are just a racist people", or similar pap.

      So now Germany has a problem with skinheads (though it tends to get blown way out of proportion because the rest of the world watches the country very carefully). So why is that? Is that because German teenagers can get their hands on albums by talentless oi-skinhead bands? Or maybe, just maybe, it's because the reunification of Germany has been fraught with all sorts of economic and political stresses, and there are too many scared, uneducated, hopeless Germans who are looking for a scapegoat.

      Of course, when it comes to what a politician can do about it, there's really no option at all, is there? Either he can stand up and say "We should work hard to make sure that everybody has good economic opportunities" -- and be branded as some stuck-in-the-past Marxist -- or he can point fingers and say "Let's keep Nazi images off the internet!"
      • Anti-hate-speech laws, whether in Germany or Francs or the U.S., seem to be predicated on the idea that the speech itself has some sort of magical power over people's minds.

        If the speech is "sanitized" by government laws and enforcement mechanisms, then people might be inclined to start thinking that what they do hear is somehow more acceptable. That is the danger when people stop deciding for themselves.

    • Well. my usual sermon..
      The internet is not a 'government network'. It's a bunch of networks hooked together using a common protocol. When a government wants to step in and tell a bunch of private entities what they can and cannot look at, over hardware they own.. I have a problem with it.
    • That's not the point. The point is that was is happening here is not that the government takes a specific publication, sues the publisher, and the court decides that further publication of this material should be illegal.

      What is happening here is:

      • The goverment did, as far as I know, not sue anyone, so no court was involved in this case. It's the government who decides what sites are to be blocked.
      • The government is asking for a complete domain to be blocked. It's very questionable if you can view an entire domain as a single publication. Take Slashdot as an example -- should all of Slashdot's articles be blocked if there is a single "hate speech" article or comment?
      • The government asks for blocking nazi websites. This is a smart move, as the great majority of Germans is in favor of making the distribution of such material illegal. At least some providers, especially smaller ones, will block the content as soon as the goverment threatens to sue them, since not doing so would result in bad PR. The question is, will they stop here? I'm quite sure the next thing to be blocked will be content that is "not appropriate for children." Will they stop there?

      I'd say that especially the first and the second point make the goverment's request unconstitutional, even though the German constitution does permit laws that make "hate speech" illegal.

    • The same problem (including the front14.org site, who got more publicity than it could ever dream of thanks to these affairs - but that's another matter) was brought to court recently in France.

      The judge decided not to decide anything [yahoo.com]; basically, he chose to let the ISPs decide for themselves, what they should do with these sites. "Block it or not, you decide." Quite sensible, IMHO.

      The disciple of Solomon who made that non-decision was judge Gomez, the same guy who orderd Yahoo to block access to Nazi-related auctions from French machines.

      All in all, that doesn't change much, and the recent moves by the EU on that subject don't help either. At the end of the day, the only truth is that since the 1st amendment exists in the US, it now de facto exists everywhere in the world, and that the only thing that can go against it is financial threat (e.g. Yahoo who removed Nazi auctions altogether for fear that their assets in France could be at risk).

      Oh strange new World, with such an Internet in't !

      Thomas Miconi
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Thursday November 22, 2001 @10:52AM (#2600323) Homepage
    As I commented [slashdot.org] on Nov. 14:

    A [problem threatening free speech in the U.S.] is the FBI Wiretap of the entire Internet [foxnews.com]

    The new FBI plans would give the agency a technical backdoor to the networks of Internet service providers' like AOL and Earthlink and Web hosting companies, Baker said. It would concentrate Internet traffic in several central locations where e-mail and other web activity could be wiretapped.
    coupled with the Internet's unsecured DNS [slashdot.org]. The FBI could surreptitiously censor subtly or DOS sites that criticize the government, for example.
  • This has already been reversed. See the newer article on heise [heise.de]
  • That could be interesting. A german types in thenazipartyarentthatbadafterall.de (or its German equivalent), and they get their local government website.

    Could be worse, I suppose. We might see the rarest of conditions, when politicians don't want the people's votes, after their picture seems to appear on amianaziornot.de
  • Curious... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mESSDan (302670)
    They mention "illegal content" quite a bit, but I don't see where they define it. Then again, the Google translation left much to be desired and I did not read to the end of the article. Can anyone elaborate on it?

    Side note: It would be most strange if the "illegal content" was pornography, from what I understand, prostitution is legal in Germany. Most would say that is morally worse than a little pr0n. (Me, I could care less).

    I guess its all moot anyway.
  • Not as bad??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hobbex (41473)

    Why is this not as bad as China or Saudi-Arabia? Censorship is censorship, and governments trying to restrict their peoples access to information on the Internet is equally despicable regardless of the information or the method with which it is attempted.

    The world has suffered too much already to the German people's willingness to allow their governments to manipulate and control them. I say shame on all those who are allowing it to continue...
    • Thanks for the troll. Do you know what the (democratically-elected, unlike Saudi Arabia or China) German government is censoring, according to (approved by most Germans) law? Nazi sites. Those that promote the government that "manipulate and control" the German people. Not counting that those laws, forbidding to promote Nazism in Germany, was in 1945 promoted by the American Government (that certainly never censor anything).

      • Yes, I did know all that, and it does not change a thing. What part of "censorship is censorship" do you fail to comprehend?

        Evil almost never comes into the world because of evil intentions, but rather when fundamental freedoms are trampled upon in the name of utilitarian reward, short term benefit, and an illusion of safety.
    • Censorship is censorship

      All are not the same.

      Example of manipulation: China blocks news sites.

      Example of value censorship: Saudi-Arabia blocks porn. (To them skin=porn, but that is nitpicking.)

      Some libraries in the USA block porn.

      We can argue over censorship, but we can probably agree that some censorship is worse than others. Blocking news is the most evil and manipulative I can think of.
  • Already in Monday the Duesseldorfer offerer Isis Multimedia Net changed appropriate DN-its-slow-acting on its name server.

    Can someone who speaks german please explain what a DN-its-slow-acting is?
    • Can someone who speaks german please explain what a DN-its-slow-acting is?


      Ok, it took me a while to figure that out, but here we go:

      The German original of the sentence is "Bereits am Montag änderte der Düsseldorfer Anbieter Isis Multimedia Net entsprechende DNS-Einträge auf seinem Nameserver."

      "DNS-Einträge" means DNS entries. The Google engine obviously chopped "S-Einträge" off of the rest. "Sein" means "its" and "träge" "sluggish" or, as it's translated here, "slow-acting".

  • Anyone know what type of sites they were attempting to filter? Even if it was just another fascist sysadmin, he must have had a list from somewhere.
  • Rather than sue websites (like France has done to Yahoo) Germany is attempting to address content issues within their own borders through technical means. I may or may not agree with what they are attempting to keep out, but I respect their right to try and I respect the fact their solution is lawyer free.

    Of course, anyone with a phone number to an out-of-country ISP and a modem will have no trouble getting around this weak blockade, but that is a seperate issue.
  • Another example (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Syberghost (10557) <syberghost&syberghost,com> on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:04AM (#2600356) Homepage
    Hopefully, the folks who kneejerk respond to stories about similar abuses in the US with "hah hah, the US sucks, come live in a real country" will keep this and similar problems (such as the French encryption policies and Yahoo lawsuit) in mind.

    The Internet is shaking up the status quo globally, and the assaults on our freedom of speech to stop it are similarly global. If the US removes it's citizens' freedom, it affects you, whether you're in Georgia the state or Georgia the country.
  • There is googlized additional link [google.com] about the situation from the magazine Telepolis

    Google gives the translated title as "Net barrier for Fritzchen stupid", with somehow somes it up nicely

  • by Cryus (538375) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:18AM (#2600401)
    The Caos Computer Club has a transcript [www.ccc.de] of the letters sent to the ISPs by the Government. They demanded the blocking of: front14.org, stormfront.org, nazi-lauck-nsdapao.com for illegal nazi-content (which is illegal in Germany for historical reasons) and rotten.com As a site that uses pictures undermining the dignity of man and endangering the youth. I'd personaly - as a german citizen - prefer to see more money spent on media-education so people could make an informed decision about good and bad links to follow than on this campaign that opens doors to censorship (which is against our constitution btw.)
  • by Rabenwolf (155378) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:20AM (#2600410)
    As somebody else said already, the story was retracted after I submitted it. Apparently a technician changed the DNS entries without authorization from his superiors to demonstrate how easily it could be circumvented. But the state government is still trying to get the ISPs to adapt these measures. Read more about it here [google.com].

  • by fhwang (90412) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:24AM (#2600420) Homepage
    It looks like this has already been retracted. Still, it's interesting to imagine the possible ramifications.

    If a country implemented DNS blocking like this as a long-standing policy, it's easy to imagine people trying all sorts of technical fixes to get around it. People would set up their own "All Hate DNS", or maybe they'd distribute .hosts files with lists of blocked domains ...

    But once you're doing that, why even use the old domain name? If you had www.killalljews.com resolving through the "All Hate DNS", wouldn't you also want www.killalljews.hate, and www.finalsolution.now, and everything else?

    It introduces the possibility of a conflicting, though smaller, namespace, being overlaid on the DNS -- one more step towards fragmenting the namespace [fhwang.net]. Not that such fragmentation is necessarily a good thing, but it sure would be interesting to watch ...

    • Blackmarket hosts files! Alright a way to pay my bills even during the tech recession using nothing but my mad Unix skills. Okay who will be the first bidder of the day! :)
  • It gets worse (Score:5, Informative)

    by YKnot (181580) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:29AM (#2600439)
    Now that ISIS has stopped blocking the sites under massive objection from free speech advocates, the local government has released a press statement in which they claim that ISIS gave in to racist pressure. Guess we're all nazis now because we didn't want to allow our government to take the easy route to complete content control.
    The statement is here: Pressemitteilung 467/2001 der Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf vom 22.11.2001 [bezreg-due...orf.nrw.de]
    • Are things getting better? There's a new press release by ISIS: Rechtsradikale Seiten nach hin und her nun doch gesperrt [www.isis.de] ("Pages of rightwing extremist have eventually been blocked")

      I'm not sure what this provider is up to, perhaps these people are using this opportunity to grasp public attention. Anyway, they have changed their view of DNS again:

      $ dig @issv0099.isis.de www.rotten.com
      ...

      ;; ANSWER SECTION:
      www.rotten.com. 86400 IN A 195.158.131.132

      ;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
      rotten.com. 86400 IN NS issv0099.isis.de.

      ...
      $
  • Isolated case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mseeger (40923) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:31AM (#2600444)
    This is only an isolated case. Till now, there is *NO* consensus between the ISPs and the law enforcers.

    I had a lot of meetings with the BKA (something like the german FBI) about fighting criminality in the internet. And they underestimate scale and complexity of the net.

    I give you one example. There is a software called PERKEO. PERKEO is able to checksum files quickly and has an internal database of known checksums of child pornography images. They argued, that most child pornography images (which are exchanged through the internet) are well known. Somewhat like 95+% shell be in the database.

    In the discussion with the ISPs they argued, that it would be easy to add PERKEO to the proxy server. For every image accessed, the checksum is created and compared with the database. In case the checksum matches, the access is blocked.

    When i tried to explain, that the introduction would only result in countermeasure (automatic modification of images), it was taken as unwillingness.

    Every meeting (i know about) ended with the same results: Everyone is willing to fight criminals, but the is no modus operandi. The law enforcement agencies have wishes the ISPs do not consider compatible with the law and constitution.

    Some politicians and law enforcers are growing more and more frustrated. So a state (Nordrhein- Westfalen) tries to work with laws that put more responisbility on the shoulders of the ISPs.

    This generates confusion and the confusion results in such events like the one discussed.

    CU, Martin

  • by BlueGecko (109058) <benjamin@pollack.gmail@com> on Thursday November 22, 2001 @11:42AM (#2600499) Homepage

    I'm an American, not a German, but I thought that Germany's constitution forbade this. In particular, quoting from Article 5:

    (1) Jeder hat das Recht, seine Meinung in Wort, Schrift und Bild frei zu äußern und zu verbreiten und sich aus allgemein zugänglichen Quellen ungehindert zu unterrichten. Die Pressefreiheit und die Freiheit der Berichterstattung durch Rundfunk und Film werden gewährleistet. Eine Zensur findet nicht statt.

    Or, in English:

    (1) Everyone has the right to freely express and disseminate his opinion in speech, writing, and pictures and to freely inform himself from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films are guaranteed. There will be no censorship.

    Could someone who is German or who has studied German law please clarify?

    • There is the exception that you may not express hate speech, deny the Nazi cruelties or use racist expressions.
    • Could someone who is German or who has studied German law please clarify?
      I studied this law, as in: I read the next paragraph:
      (2) These rights are limited by the provisions of the general laws, the provisions of law for the protection of youth and by the right to inviolability of personal honor.

      Just as in other countries, the constitutional court will decide (if called) if this specific law is unconstitutional. They upheld Art. 5 a few years ago when someone used a very short quote ('Soldiers are murderers') of a longer text (Der bewachte Kriegsschauplatz [uni-ulm.de]), to raise sentiments against the NATO armed forces.
    • Article 5 continues as follows:

      (2) Diese Rechte finden ihre Schranken in den Vorschriften der allgemeinen Gesetze, den gesetzlichen Bestimmungen zum Schutze der Jugend und in dem Recht der persönlichen Ehre.

      This translates as:

      (2) These rights are restricted by general laws, legal regulations concerning the protection of the youth and by the right of personal honour.

      I am neither a lawyer nor German, but I guess there are German laws that somewhat restrict the distribution of Nazi ideology.
    • you're right, censorship is illegal in germany.
      however, article 1 (one, as in the first and most important of them all) is die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar, which means as much as human dignity is untouchable.

      so, you can say what you want against the government, or any of its institutions, but you can't say what you want against people, if it touches their dignity.
      needless to say, this is not limited to verbal attacks, but includes anything you or the government might do.

    • I am German, but not a lawyer, but i think this is unconstitutional. Paragraph (1) says clearly that everyone has the right to access information from generally available sources. The internet is such a source. Nazi propaganda, while morally repulsive and disgusting, is information. So article 5 applies to the sites in question.

      Paragraph (2) then sets a few exceptions to the rule. One of these is to protect children, one says that insults are not protected by article 5, and then the paragraph (2) says something about paragraph (1) being limited by the general laws. This means that a specific law may limit paragraph (1) in specific cases. It does not mean that there is an unwritten codex of what may be said and what not and that a local authority could decide on an ad hc basis what they like or not (that would be censorship) and then prosecute whoever they want. I believe the law the local authority was thinking about is the one that forbids the dissemination of Nazi Propaganda.

      The problem with this point of view is that while distributing Mein Kampf in Germany is illegal, possessing it isn't. Neither is transporting it (otherwise the entire Deutsche Post AG would go to jail). So neither the ISP nor the persons accessing the websites in question are doing anything that would be against the law that forbids distribution of Nazi propaganda. And if they don't, the law doesn't apply and paragraph (1) stands.

      The press release in which they blame the ISP for yielding to racists is the usual whining. They made a mistake, they don't want to admit it, so they call everybody a Nazi. The only new thing is that i didn't know that Godwin's law applies to muggels.
    • It makes little to no difference what the German Constitution says. Look at the Garbage that they had in East Germany or any other Communist regime. On paper they had the most democratic and free society. In reality they had none.
      Example From DDR's Constitution:
      ARTICLE 8 (1) personal liberty, inviolability of the dwelling, post office secret and the right to establish itself at any place are ensured.
      What Baloney. Sorry I couldn't find an English translation, maybe use babelfish [altavista.com]
    • Could someone who is German or who has studied German law please clarify?


      Article 1: (quoting by heart)

      Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu schützen und zu bewahren ist Aufgabe jeder staatlichen Gewalt.

      In English:

      A humans dignity is inviolable. To protect and retain it is the task of every governmental power.

      So it has to be considered which right has to be protected more in every single case - the dignity of someone who feels offended by certain speech or the freedom of speech of someone else.
      Considerations like this are very common in German law (and possibly elsewhere) - just think nuclear power plant (property against health) or genetic engineering (property against dignity).
      In general, I think it's perfectly correct that serious forms of offensive speech are forbidden - it is illegal to publish hate material in Germany.

      But this measure goes way to far - beside the fact that it is technically impossible to suppress content on the internet, and they're running in danger giving a kind of popularity to those sites which they definitely do not deserve.
  • I just got off the phone yesterday with a client from germany who was telling me that his website that we host here in america was pointing to a porn site. The content on his page was correct, as was apache's httpd.conf file, and the dns records on his nameserver.. Everything was setup correctly.

    I told him that someone was probably playing with his ISP's DNS records. Go figure :)
  • It's very easy to pass over all this stupid barriers (including country firewalls). All I have to do is ask one single question.

    Does anybody have a proxy (anonymizer) server avaiable?

    Nothing else to say.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @12:07PM (#2600602) Homepage Journal
    I've found that in many cases, using the nameserver your ISP hands you will result in a 1-2 second per lookup delay - most ISPs have horribly overloaded their DNS servers. Where I work, I was seeing 2-5 seconds per lookup. I brought this to the attention of our IT staff, and had them reconfigure our plant nameserver to do the lookup directly. Name lookups went from 2-5 seconds to <100 msec. Since we are a large shop with lots of clients, it makes sense.

    Running your own caching nameserver will speed up your browsing, and if you use a real name server package, you can configure it to do the lookups itself rather than going through your ISP's servers. Thus, you can prevent them from screwing with your DNS, you can use alternate root servers if you so choose, and you get better response.

    I'm somewhat shocked that Assimilation-XP doesn't have a caching nameserver....
    • Wouldn't it be simple for ISPs to block queries from their customers to port 53 on any systems but their designated name servers?

      I'm not raising this because I think it's a good idea, but because it's obvious enough that we may have to provide a work-around, such as setting up DNS on other ports, in a widely-distributed way.
  • by tlr (85716)
    The fake DNS entries on ISIS' server are active again. Note that they are not just redirecting www.rotten.com, but the entire domain, via a wildcard CNAME entry.
  • by karm13 (538402) on Thursday November 22, 2001 @03:06PM (#2601019) Homepage
    firs of all, i am german, and i am writing this from a german perspective.

    having read through the comments, i would like to add a few things.

    firs of all, it affects just one state. in germany, each state is responsible for the media by themselves. this includes things like assigning frequencies and so on.
    this particular state tries to push the local ISPs (which are not the ones used by the majoraty of the people living there anyway) to block access to those websites. this has been (and will be) opposed by the ISPs, for obvious (technical and constitutional) reasons. one ISIS technician did it, to prove it was possible.
    it is uncertain if such a government blocking would be legal.

    i agree with all of you saying censorship is bad in general. i also believe it is wrong in this special case.

    but there are some things you should take in account, before judjing germany as some repressive country.
    those are, of coures, historical reasons. the nazis used media propaganda not only after they gained power, but from the very beginning of their movement, as they had the support of some big publishers. and they used a hole in the constitution of the weimar republic to abandon the constitution alltogether. to prevent this in the future, when the new constitution was made, making it protective had a top priority. protective means that any attempt to fight the constitution is illegal, and certain key paragraphs must not be changed (including the one about censorship being illegal, by the way).
    so if you promote a plan to abandon the constitution it is illegal, if a party proposes to abandon the constitution, the party is illegal, and if the party has no democratic structure - guess what.

    nazi symbols are illegal, denying the holocaust is illegal, basicly anything pro-nazi is.
    contrary to popular believe Mein Kampf is not, but the copyright is claimed by the state of bavaria, so you can't buy it (you can't read it either, i tried it once but didn't make it past the first chapter).
    i believe this should be kept up for some 40 more years. imagine you have suffered under the nazis, been arrested by the gestapo or maybe even sent to a concentration camp and you see the same symbols again on someones t-shirt.

    but to get to main point: nazi propaganda in germany is illegal. so some people have their sites hosted somewhere else. 90% of german language nazi content is hosted outside of germany. so the idea is to block access to it from within germany. but three question remain:

    - is it possible?
    - is it legal?
    - is it good?

    the legal status is unclear, but critical.
    the technical possibility is, to say the least, questionable.
    the issue iif it is good is just being discussed. i think it's not, a proper educated mind should be able to deal with propaganda, from any side.

    i wanted to write something about the different freedoms you have in europe and in the US, but i will do that in another post...

  • You can point your computer to whatever DNS server you want. Just point to one in the US.
  • Which party rules North Rhine - Westphalia? (Or is it just Düsseldorf?
  • German Statutes in English Translation [iuscomp.org]

    Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz, GG) [iuscomp.org]

    Article 5 [Freedom of expression]

    (1) Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

    (2) These rights shall find their limits in the provisions of general laws, in provisions for the protection of young persons, and in the right to personal honor.

    ...

    Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB) [iuscomp.org]

    Section 86 Dissemination of Means of Propaganda of Unconstitutional Organizations

    (1) Whoever domestically disseminates or produces, stocks, imports or exports or makes publicly accessible through data storage media for dissemination domestically or abroad, means of propaganda:

    1. of a party which has been declared to be unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court or a party or organization, as to which it has been determined, no longer subject to appeal, that it is a substitute organization of such a party;

    2. of an organization, which has been banned, no longer subject to appeal, because it is directed against the constitutional order or against the idea of international understanding, or as to which it has been determined, no longer subject to appeal, that it is a substitute organization of such a banned organization;

    3. of a government, organization or institution outside of the territorial area of application of this law which is active in pursuing the objectives of one of the parties or organizations indicated in numbers 1 and 2; or

    4. means of propaganda, the contents of which are intended to further the aims of a former National Socialist organization,

    shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.

    (2) Means of propaganda within the meaning of subsection (1) shall only be those writings (Section 11 subsection (3)) the content of which is directed against the free, democratic constitutional order or the idea of international understanding.

    (3) Subsection (1) shall not be applicable if the means of propaganda or the act serves to further civil enlightenment, to avert unconstitutional aims, to promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes.

    (4) If guilt is slight, the court may refrain from imposition of punishment pursuant to this provision.

    Section 86a Use of Symbols of Unconstitutional Organizations

    (1) Whoever:

    1. domestically distributes or publicly uses, in a meeting or in writings (Section 11 subsection (3)) disseminated by him, symbols of one of the parties or organizations indicated in Section 86 subsection (1), nos. 1, 2 and 4; or

    2. produces, stocks, imports or exports objects which depict or contain such symbols for distribution or use domestically or abroad, in the manner indicated in number 1,

    shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.

    (2) Symbols, within the meaning of subsection (1), shall be, in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting. Symbols which are so similar as to be mistaken for those named in sentence 1 shall be deemed to be equivalent thereto.

    (3) Section 86 subsections (3) and (4), shall apply accordingly.

    Section 130 Agitation of the People

    (1) Whoever, in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace:

    1. incites hatred against segments of the population or calls for violent or arbitrary measures against them; or

    2. assaults the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming segments of the population,

    shall be punished with imprisonment from three months to five years.

    (2) Whoever: 1. with respect to writings (Section 11 subsection (3)), which incite hatred against segments of the population or a national, racial or religious group, or one characterized by its folk customs, which call for violent or arbitrary measures against them, or which assault the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning or defaming segments of the population or a previously indicated group:

    a) disseminates them;

    b) publicly displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes them accessible;

    c) offers, gives or makes accessible to a person under eighteen years; or

    (d) produces, obtains, supplies, stocks, offers, announces, commends, undertakes to import or export them, in order to use them or copies obtained from them within the meaning of numbers a through c or facilitate such use by another; or

    2. disseminates a presentation of the content indicated in number 1 by radio,

    shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.

    (3) Whoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or renders harmless an act committed under the rule of National Socialism of the type indicated in Section 220a subsection (1), in a manner capable of disturbing the public piece shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine.

    ...

    Section 131 Representation of Violence

    (1) Whoever, in relation to writings (Section 11 subsection (3)), which describe cruel or otherwise inhuman acts of violence against human beings in a manner which expresses a glorification or rendering harmless of such acts of violence or which represents the cruel or inhuman aspects of the event in a manner which injures human dignity:

    1. disseminates them;

    2. publicly displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes them accessible;

    3. offers, gives or makes them accessible to a person under eighteen years; or

    4. produces, obtains, supplies, stocks, offers, announces, commends, undertakes to import or export them, in order to use them or copies obtained from them within the meaning of numbers 1 through 3 or facilitate such use by another,

    shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine.

    (2) Whoever disseminates a presentation of the content indicated in subsection (1) by radio, shall be similarly punished.

    (3) Subsections (1) and (2) shall not apply if the act serves as reporting about current or historical events.

    (4) Subsection (1), number 3 shall not be applicable if the person authorized to care for the person acts.

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