Search Engine Filtering Agreement (Germany)

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EDRI-gram, a bi-weekly newsletter about digital civil rights in Europe, draws our attention to an earlier report by German online newsletter Heise, which reported a couple of days ago that all major search engines in Germany (Google, Lycos Europe, MSN Deutschland, AOL Deutschland, Yahoo, T-Online, and t-info) have reached an agreement to filter harmful-to-minors content which will make it much more difficult for German users to access such content. For this purpose, the search engines agreed to establish and run a self-regulatory organization that will block websites considered to be harmful based on a list of URLs provided by a government agency in charge with media content classification. According to the Heise report, the search engines take these steps because they fear that European legislators might become active if the harmful-to-minors-problem isn’t addressed by the industry itself.
Among many interesting details: (1) The search engines are not allowed to make public which sites are filtered. (2) It seems unclear how content considered to be harmful to minors can be searched and accessed by adults under the regime. Again, clash of cultures. For a much earlier (2002) analysis of Google content filtering in Germany, see this report by Professor Jonathan Zittrain and former Berkmaniac Ben Edelman.

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