Can telecommunications companies block VPN
Clearinghouse copyright on the InternetThe return of network barriers
Ten years ago, the then black and yellow government put the plans of its predecessor government on hold to use network blocking in the fight against depictions of child abuse. In particular, the then Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen had campaigned heavily in the 2009 federal election campaign to introduce network blocking and had already motivated the major telecommunications companies to cooperate voluntarily.
After massive protests on the internet, it became the Access Barrier Act, which was quickly abolished in 2011. In the meantime it had become apparent that the strategy of “deleting instead of blocking” gave more sensible measures to combat illegal content.
Today an association of Internet access providers (Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefónica, Mobilcom-Debitel and 1 & 1) and numerous associations of the rights industry announced the signing of a joint code of conduct “Clearing House Copyright on the Internet” (CUII). In it, they outline a way of how they want to block out of court access to so-called "structurally copyright-infringing websites" in the future.
Voluntary cooperation should enable network blocking
A "jointly set up independent clearing house chaired by a retired judge from the Federal Court of Justice" should make recommendations and if the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) has no concerns under the EU net neutrality regulation, Internet providers should block the pages.
With the DNS network blocking instrument, providers block the resolution of a domain to an IP address. The network's address book is manipulated and the network's open architecture is interfered with.
The rights industry, especially the music and film industry, has been lobbying for the use of network blocking to block access to certain sites for a long time. The campaign also included many lawsuits in order to create the legal framework for this through legal proceedings.
In the past, the focus was primarily on p2p file sharing sites, but today it is websites like kino.to (or as they are now called). The misuse of third-party content to build a business model is a problem. However, the introduction of network blocking creates much bigger problems.
Whoever introduces network blocking opens Pandora's box
When the network is blocked, content remains on the network, just a curtain is drawn in front of it. However, this can still be bypassed by using other DNS servers or virtual private networks (VPN). Meanwhile, network blocking is used in numerous, usually authoritarian, states to restrict freedom of expression and information. DNS locking is one of the most popular means of building a censorship infrastructure and that is precisely the danger.
The use of network blocking in democratic states normalizes this dangerous instrument. It can only be a matter of time before despots and autocrats refer to Germany as a role model, as Erdogan and Putin have already done with the Network Enforcement Act, which they use as a blueprint for real censorship laws. In addition, once introduced control instruments are generally no longer withdrawn, but expanded. Should authoritarian forces continue to gain power in Germany, too, they can look forward to a turnkey censorship infrastructure.
Ten years ago we had the hope that network blocking would go where they belong: in the moth box of dangerous network policy ideas. In reality, the network blocks are now back at the latest.
For several months now, youth protectionists have been looking for ways to motivate uncooperative porn platform operators to adhere to youth protection rules by threatening to block the network. The plans have not yet been implemented. But that is probably only a matter of time and the process will take place in parallel with the establishment of the new clearing house.
They are all legitimate problems that need solutions. But with network blocking, we're opening Pandora's box and creating even bigger problems.
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