Germany Flirting With Internet Porn Filtering
BERLIN — A veteran German politician has caught Great Britain’s porn filtering bug, sparking a dialogue with those who believe handcuffing the Internet is not the answer to protecting children from questionable content.
Norbert Geis, a 74-year old poltico told Deutche Welle that studies show that Internet porn adversely affects children and teenager’s sexual development and could lead to brutality.
Germany does not require an over 18 warning on adult material and filters are not mandatory.
Geis wants his country to adopt a similar plan to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s new opt-in measure as a first step in blocking adult content." I think that an Internet provider could — if demanded by the user — block a certain computer or Internet device for such content," Geis said.
Educator Kristin Langer of the pedagogical initiative "Schau hin!," although agreeing that porn has an impact on young people, said that Cameron’s proposal is too vague and that censorship laws don’t replace education. "Children and teenagers get a questionable idea of sexuality," Langer told DW. "You have to assume that pornographic pictures or film are having quite an impact."
But she maintained that filtering is no substitute for education and that parents would still have to take control and make use of existing tools such as search engines created especially for children. She added that filters available that block certain pages would only work if the website in question has an age tag similar to those for movies and computer games that are required by German law.
Langer said questionable sites could be similarly labeled by authorities. "We basically do have a broad system which is backed up by laws. In addition, parents still need to help their children with the way they use the Internet," Langer explained.
And IT expert Alvar Freude, member of the German parliament's commission on Internet and digital society, also wants the onus put on parents. He said parents should be proactive about restricting access and teach kids about the potential porn dangers.
But he stressed that filters are not a good solution because they aren’t precisely targeted. He explained that filters automatically detect a site’s content, potentially blocking pages that are not at all dangerous.
Adopting Cameron’s filtering system could also be problematic in Germany because it contradicts the country’s freedom of information as granted by the Basic Law, according to Freude. The law says "that the state may not prevent its citizens' access to content."
Like most critics of porn filtering, Freude said blocking porn is useless because determined users can work around the barriers. "Teenagers who want to access that kind of content, will find ways to do so," he said.