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From: frodriq@NL.net (Felipe Rodriquez)
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 96 20:02:43 CET
Organization: NLnet
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                      *** GLOBAL ALERT ***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                       SEPT. 18, 1996

-  Please redistribute this document widely
   with this banner intact
-  Redistribute only in appropriate places
   & only until 15 October 1996

        At the behest of, and in response to legal threats from,
the German government, internet providers in Germany have blocked
the Dutch Web site Access For All (www.xs4all.nl), removing German
users' access to the entire xs4all system. The German government
demanded this action because xs4all hosts a Web "home page" with
so-called left-wing political content that, though fully legal in
the Netherlands, is allegedly illegal in Germany. (see:
http://www.anwalt.de/ictf/p960901e.htm). As a result of this action,
*all* xs4all web sites, including several thousand that have nothing
to do with the offending home page, are unavailable to readers in

        Please send a letter of protest to the German ambassador in
your country, ask your foreign minister to protest officially to the
German government, and distribute this alert as widely as possible
online and to the press.

        Referring to article 19(2) of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political rights, which Germany ratified in 1973, we, the
undersigned organizations, consider this censorship an illegal act.
Additionally, the value of attempting to ban content the German
government finds offensive is highly questionable. The proper response
to offensive expression is more and better expression, and prosecution
of offending criminals, not censorship.

        As a result of the overly broad censorship measure which
targets an entire Internet access provider instead of a specific
user, all 3000 and more Web site hosted by xs4all are virtually
inaccessible in Germany. The loss of clients who market in Germany
has resulted in economic damage to xs4all. The immeasurable harm of
censoring thousands of other users for the speech of one is even

        Access for All, though it has expressed willingness to assist
the Dutch police in identifying online criminals abusing the xs4all
system, has a policy against censoring its clients.
        Mirroring this position, at least one German Net provider has
responded to the government demands with skepticism, pointing out that
their compliance with the censorship request may cause them to violate
contracts with their own German users, and that the government's
liability threats are tantamount to holding a phone company liable for what
users say on the telephone.

        Instead of the futile act of censorship that has simply
drawn increased attention to the offending material and resulted
in its widespread availability on other sites throughout the
world, the German government should have acted through legal
channels and asked the authorities in the Netherlands to cooperate
in determining what legal action, if any, was appropriate.

        We are concerned that German internet providers have
cooperated so easily with government censorship efforts. Some
level of cooperation was probably assured by underhanded and
rather questionable police threats of system operator liability
for user content, but we must urge more resistance on that part
of Net access providers to such online censorship schemes. As
with libraries, there are many who would censor, but there is a
responsibility on the part of providers of access to information,
to work to protect that access, else libraries, and Internet service
providers, lose the reason for their existence.

        We ask that the German government refrain from further
restrictive measures and intimidation of internet providers and
recognize the free, democratic, world wide communications
represented by the Internet.
        All governments should recognize that the Internet is not
a local, or even national, medium, but a global medium in which
regional laws have little useful effect. "Top-down" censorship
efforts not only fail to prevent the distribution of material to
users in the local jurisdiction (material attacked in this manner
can simply be relocated to any other country), but constitutes a
direct assault on the rights and other interests of Internet users
and service providers in other jurisdictions, not subject to the
censorship law in question.

        For press contacts, and for more information about the
Internet, see the homepages for the signatories to this message:

DB-NL (Digital Citizens Foundation in the Netherlands)
        * http://www.xs4all.nl/~db.nl
ALCEI - Electronic Frontiers Italy * http://www.nexus.it/alcei
CITADEL-E F France *http://www.imaginet.fr/~mose/citadel
CommUnity (UK) * http://www.community.org.uk
Electronic Frontier Canada * http://www.efc.ca/
Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA) * http://www.eff.org
Electronic Frontiers Australia * http://www.efa.org.au/

Other signatures:
NLIP, Dutch Foundation for Internet Providers * http://www.nlip.nl
Internet Providers Rotterdam * http://www.ipr.nl
Digitaal Werknet Nederland * http://www.dwn.nl
Foebud e.V, foundation to promote free datatraffic,
                * http://www.zerberus.de
National Writers Union (UAW LOCAL 1981 AFL-CIO)
                * http://www.nwu.org/nwu/
Nizkor Project * http://www.nizkor.org/
Internet Access Foundation (NL) * http://www.iaf.nl/
Digitale Stad Venlo * http://www.dsvenlo.nl
CSO * http://www.canucksoup.net/