German Internet Content Filtering

The Minister of the Interior of Bavaria requested that the industry produces web content filtering on "instructions on how to build a bomb." These pages, he claims, are "a very dangerous security problem." He hopes filters like those for parental filtering can solve this problem.

I think he's trying to solve the wrong problem.

Posted on September 28, 2005 at 4:29 PM • 32 Comments

Comments

Fred PageSeptember 28, 2005 4:54 PM

He should ban chemistry, while he's at it. And benzene (a common industral cleaner), and Nitric acid. :-)

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 28, 2005 5:26 PM

My German is a little rusty, but doesn't the last sentence say that he thinks it should be possible to use filters for chemistry information in the same way as in the "war against child pornography"?

"Möglicherweise könnten hier Filterprogramme, die sich im Kampf gegen Kinderpornografie als gute Lösung erwiesen hätten, Abhilfe schaffen."

Eric K.September 28, 2005 5:26 PM

As we all know from watching "Fight Club," if you have enough soap, you can blow up anything.

Ban soap!

Wait... it's Europe... They already did.

TarkeelSeptember 28, 2005 5:27 PM

While he's add it, why not just ban most househould cleansing chemicals? Some of those are just a mixture away from Weapons of Mass Destruction (tm).

ShuraSeptember 28, 2005 5:28 PM

What's really scary about that is that he's mentioned as a possible Home Secretary in the new government (so far, he's just Home Secretary in the state government of Bavaria, fortunately.)

Gerd RauschSeptember 28, 2005 5:56 PM

@Davi Ottenheimer:

It's worse than that:
He says "filter programs that _proved useful_" or rather "_proved to be a good solution_" ... "in the war against child pornography".

He doesn't even doubt the effectiveness of those filters.

gopiSeptember 28, 2005 6:39 PM

If he thinks that pornography filters are a success, then it seems like that is his primary problem. He probably sees all those companies selling anti-porn filters and figures that if so many vendors are selling them, they must work.

He probably thinks that the problem is those silly Americans who're always obsessed with banning pornography yet consider recreational use of heavy weaponry to be a god-given right :)

Germany definitely has a tradition of limiting or banning 'objectionable' speech. Nazi symbols are banned, for example. Full nudity is, however, somewhat tolerated in many public parks, for example. Not necessarily common, but not something that will get you arrested. So, I suspect he just assumes that the products on the market work, and that it's merely an oversight catering to foreign priorities that has resulted in no anti-bomb filters for sale.

jammitSeptember 28, 2005 6:56 PM

Since I'm an amerikan and am too lazy to learn another language (I failed English even), I can only offer a smarmy comment.
Oh great. If I can't get my bomb making material off the intarweb, I may have to crack open my chemistry 101 book I had to have for high school 15 years ago.

WooSeptember 28, 2005 7:12 PM

This article shows well, that some politicians are simply facing too many problems that they don't have enough background knowledge about.
I hope, Mr. Beckstein has by now been explained what the technical consequences of his proposal would be.
As resident Bavarian, I don't find him a bad politician at all, he just put his fingers into a topic where he lacks the background. But so do many politicians all over the world every day.
If I had anything to decide, I'd pass a law that any technical regulation and/or suggestion has to pass a trial before a group of experts before being brought into the media. And I mean _real_ experts, not like those talking in evening boulevard tv magazines. Of course, those are hard to find and not cheap, but that's the price for not making oneself look like an idiot in the news. And our politicians could use that atm.

Stu SavorySeptember 28, 2005 11:23 PM

One does not expect sensible suggestions from Beckstein. His next idea may be to ban any stuff about Islam from the Internet(s), because they are part of (his) problem. What is fearful is that these ignorami are the people running the country :-(

akSeptember 29, 2005 1:06 AM

The Minister of the Interior of Bavaria is Günther Beckstein, a man who can be best described as xenophobic, advocate of preemptive surveillance w/o suspicion, advocate of censorship (obviously, as you can see above), fascist. If he had more power, he would establish some detention camp like Guantanamo Bay within Germany. So, now you get the right picture of this guy.

AxelSeptember 29, 2005 1:49 AM

@Woo: you've hit the nail on the head. Besides, Beckstein is not being taken seriously outside of Bavaria and the most conservative circles.
The really scary part is that with a potential conservative government Beckstein will probably run for Federal Interior Minister.
Time to think about expatriating.

ManuelSeptember 29, 2005 2:28 AM

@axel
thats a common problem here. too much thinking about obvious thing: Why not just do it?
Besides the bavarians are *always* demanding weird things and no one even cares anymore.

RaindeerSeptember 29, 2005 2:35 AM

@Davi

The sale of pressure cookers is forbidden in Nepal, because of the continuing use by maoist guerilla's. A Nepalese college roommate of mine found that out when he returned home and went to the market to buy one.

Now I don't know if the Nepalese have a Total Information Awareness program that registers all those that try to buy a pressure cooker, but who knows. It might just stop terrorists.

Erik NSeptember 29, 2005 3:38 AM

I think that for a non-technically minded politician, it is quite reasonable to conclude:

If you can successfully filter pornography, then it should be posible to filter other dangerous material.

I think the logic in the statement is quite valid: Both are content filtering, and while pornography is mostly images that is extremely difficult to filter, bomb recipies may be distributed in text which is easier to filter.

Where he goes wrong is in the premise asuming that it is posible to effectively filter pornography and so the statement falls.

Cheers, Erik

julienSeptember 29, 2005 3:45 AM

"""What's really scary about that is that he's mentioned as a possible Home Secretary in the new government (so far, he's just Home Secretary in the state government of Bavaria, fortunately.)"""

Well Schily is the current Home Secretary and both he and Beckstein are known to be good friends and have exactly the same "opinions" concerning "security" ...

WooSeptember 29, 2005 8:31 AM

All Beckstein needs is one or two technically savvy guys who tell him what the Internet is and how it works. Or someone to slap him in the face and tell him to get a life. Or a psychiatrist.

HännesSeptember 29, 2005 10:46 AM

C´mon guys. Don´t be fooled! Beckstein only wanted publicity, and plenty of that he got. Remember: there is no such thing as "bad publicity". ´tis just another instance of a political dance. People seem to agree that he does not have a place in Berlin, at least not until hell freezes over.

n00tnSeptember 29, 2005 11:08 AM

The year is 2007 or 2008
News update:
"The U.S. bans evotion in schools"
"Germany bans chemistry in schools"

n00tnSeptember 29, 2005 11:09 AM

@ [me]
The year is 2007 or 2008
News update:
"The U.S. bans **evolution** in schools"
"Germany bans chemistry in schools"

Ari HeikkinenSeptember 29, 2005 5:59 PM

Internet content filters on gateways simply don't work. The only thing they'll do is make surfing for law abiding citizens a hassle without doing any harm to the bad guys at all.

RainerSeptember 29, 2005 6:42 PM

Please keep in mind the reduced accountability of Bavarians during the current time of Oktoberfest. Especially the conservative politicians (like Minister Beckstein) often celebrate political conventions inside the Bierzelt. Traditionally, their conventions start with this kind of music: http://www.csu-online.de/download/bayrischerdefeliermarsch.mp3 . Their most popular political slogan was "Laptop and Lederhose" (leather trousers). Yes, Bavarians are special. This is why we appreciate them so much in all areas, except politics.

VWMOctober 2, 2005 3:37 PM

I think, Beckstein is referring to the search tools that the police is using to investigate against illegal pornographic content. Not those filters that are installed at a local PC to prevent the user from watching adult stuff.

Those investigation tools frequently help to bring child rapists to justice – that’s why Beckstein considers them as useful. He is not really talking about filtering as with a huge firewall, but rather about finding the “bad guys��? (here: anyone who publishes about exothermic chemical reaction) and suing them. Although I doubt he knows the difference.

RainerNovember 3, 2005 8:23 PM

Tragic irony of history: 25 years ago a 21 year old german suicide bomber killed 13 people during Oktoberfest 1980. Some conspiracy theorists think that the explosives can be traced back to a former secret NATO stay-behind army.

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