das_kat (das_kat) wrote in ontd_political,

Revenge of the Netizens

Online Activists Take On Germany's Political Mainstream
(inspired by the recent 4chan/AT&T flap)


As Germany heads into national elections, established political parties are trying to appeal to Web-savvy voters using Facebook and Twitter. But their Internet policies are alienating bloggers and activists, who are using the medium to protest against the political mainstream.

A protester against Internet censorship.

Green Party politician Matthias Güldner, 38, isn't exactly a household name in Germany. Or rather he wasn't, until last week. But then Güldner, who is floor leader for the Greens in the parliament of the northern city-state of Bremen, published an opinion piece in the conservative daily Die Welt in which he sharply criticized what he called the "unbearable lightness of the Internet." In doing so, he clashed with his own party, which holds the position that things cannot be liberal enough on the Web. He raged against the "glorification of the Internet" and, in a reference to the micro-blogging Web site Twitter, fumed that some of his fellow party members have apparently "twittered their brains away," judging by how little concern they apparently have for the limits of law and decency. (he sounds like a pearl clutching conservative, the thought of someone like that in the Green party makes me lol)

The bone of contention between Güldner and the Greens is that he favors the blocking of child pornography Web sites as laid down in Germany's new "access restriction law," which was pushed through the Bundestag in June by Germany's grand coalition government of center-left Social Democrats and conservative Christian Democrats, who hold a majority in the German parliament. Güldner's position puts him on a collision course with his party's official policy, whose current campaign platform includes the slogan: "A Green vote is a vote for a free Internet." (makes me want to vote for them, except that their hysteria over things like GM food pisses me off)

Not too long ago, this much excitement over Internet censorship and sites like Twitter would have been unthinkable. Internet policy was considered a secondary matter in Germany, a modest technological issue with which politicians could neither further their careers nor impress voters. But things are different in this year's campaign. For the first time, the Internet is playing an important role. That's partly because German politicians are embracing the Web as a communication medium like never before. The two main candidates for chancellor, the CDU's Angela Merkel and the SPD's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as a growing number of members of parliament, have taken to blogging, twittering and podcasting in an effort to imitate the successful Internet campaign of US President Barack Obama.

It has become clear that the political landscape is split by a digital trench. On one side of the divide are those who see the Internet as the haunt of terrorists and child molesters, and who are calling for more control. And on the other side are those who value the Web as part of their personal freedom. They view it as an environment in which they can feel completely at ease when it comes to organizing their lives, work, friendships and romance online. And for them, the Internet is also a place of protest.

Another novel aspect of this year's campaign is that the party strategists at campaign headquarters are starting to take Internet users, long ridiculed as nerds, seriously. When strategists at SPD headquarters in Berlin, for example, embarked on a large-scale effort to incorporate Facebook and Twitter into their campaign, they were horrified by the reactions they encountered, which ranged from malice to open rejection and sheer hate. (hmm, I wonder why politicians pretending to be trendy and tech savvy didn’t go over well)

Ironically, it was the SPD/CDU grand coalition government who, with their zealous efforts to regulate and monitor the Web more strictly, helped launch the new protest movements by German Internet users. For such “netizens,” government initiatives like data retention by telecommunications companies, online monitoring of the computers of suspected criminals by the authorities and biometric identification cards are nothing short of assaults on their much-valued freedoms.

But then came the spark that ignited a mixture of discontent and incomprehension, in the form of a move by Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen to restrict access to Web sites that depict child pornography. Within the German Internet community, von der Leyen’s law is considered, from a technical viewpoint, to be completely unsuitable for effectively curbing child pornography. In fact, many activists see it as the first step toward far more comprehensive Internet censorship.

You can read the rest at the source, but be warned, it's very much tl;dr (even more that this post)

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