German Government Orders ISPs to Block xHamster

German Government Orders ISPs to Block xHamster

DUSSELDORF, Germany — Germany’s Commission for Youth Media Protection decided unanimously on Thursday to impose a network ban on xHamster.

The Commission, known in Germany as the KJM, alleges xHamster is in violation of the nation's Youth Media Protection State Treaty and “is therefore illegal.”

“[T]he five largest German Internet providers [will] have to block access to the ‘de.xhamster.com’ page,” leading daily newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported today.

The newspaper described the path to state censorship as an “odyssey that shows how difficult it is for media regulators to take action against illegal offerings on the internet. First, the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia — which took up the case —  located the operator of xHamster, the company Hammy Media Ltd, run by two Russians based in Cyprus. The State Media Authority then contacted the Cyprus media regulator. In October 2019, they announced that they could not take action themselves, but would not mind if the Germans did something. The State Media Authority informed the European Commission, the state government in Düsseldorf and the Federal Minister of State for Culture.”

Several more bureaucratic steps ensued, in a campaign coordinated by the head of the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia, Tobias Schmid, and reportedly using the slogan “No Surrender.” Schmid and his colleagues from Bavaria, Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate then “approached [ISPs] Telekom, 1&1, Alice, Freenet and Vodafone. Since these companies are within reach, they have to implement the blocking decided by the KJM and take xHamster out from their network.”

The German newspaper noted that “the network ban is the harshest sanction provided by the German Telemedia Act” and it “is unpopular and is quickly classified as ‘censorship.’”

“Of course, blocking the network is a dramatic intervention,” Schmid told the paper. “With this offer, however, the right to freedom of expression should not be affected too much. It is simply a business with pornography, and done at the expense of children and young people.”

A Regional Bureaucrat's 'Order' Crusade

Back in December, Schmid, an obscure, regional German bureaucrat who decided to wage a one-man war on porn in his country, took to the press to announce that there would be no appeals possible to the imminent decision to shut down tube site xHamster.

“Porn portal xHamster is on the verge of extinction!” is how German publication Bild sensationally headlined its exclusive interview with a gleeful, triumphant Schmid who claimed that “about xHamster we have a final decision against which no appeals are possible.”

“It is pornography, there is no age verification and German law applies,” Schmid declared.

Schmid, a fastidious career politician whom German publications have described as having “an order fetish,” declared himself “somewhat amazed” when the major ISPs consulted lawyers — instead of sharing his views on porn blocking and “accepting their socio-political responsibility more quickly.”

“After all, it is about clearly illegal content. If that doesn't work better now, the legislature will have to look at it again,” Schmid told Bild, clamoring for state intervention. “Every 12-year-old today has a smartphone and can switch from TikTok to these offers.”

“This is not about freedom of expression, but about a business model that uses an illegal practice,” Schmid opined.

A major digital rights group in Germany published an editorial in December analyzing how a minor bureaucrat managed to ram through a seemingly imminent blanket block of Germany's most-visited porn sites, pointing out that the situation was the result of “many small administrative steps” in the background.

“Only when viewed as a whole does the net political impact emerge,” Netzpolitik.org observed.

Main Image: North Rhine-Westphalia bureaucrat Tobias Schmid (Source: LMA)

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