Germany: Voluntary Filtering

Its been on the horizon for a while. Heise reports:

In Berlin today the search engine providers Google, Lycos Europe, MSN Deutschland, AOL Deutschland, Yahoo, T-Online and t-info announced the creation of a self-regulatory organization under the umbrella of the “Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers” (FSM).

Urs Gasser points out that among some of the interesting details “search engines are not allowed to make public which sites are filtered. ” Initially, the search engines intend to filter out URLs on a list created by the Germany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPJM). However, the BPJM states that, in the case of Internet sites being added to their “index” or “list of youth-endangering media”, they do inform the author/distributor who then has the option to “remove the incriminating content and request a second examination”.

As these initiatives move to becoming completely self-regulatory I wonder if there will be avenues for continuing review. There is a complaints procedure but this appears to apply only to complaints regarding illegal content, basically a mechanism to increase blocking. There does not appear to be a process whereby the URLs (and most likely, phrases) which are blocked are periodically assessed, its almost as if over-blocking isn’t even on the radar.

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