German ISPs Exploring Legal Challenge to Government Order to Block xHamster

German ISPs Exploring Legal Challenge to Government Order to Block xHamster

BERLIN — Hours after the German government ordered the country’s major internet service providers to block xHamster, one of the ISPs, PŸUR, told a digital rights group that it reserves the right “to have the decision legally reviewed by an independent court with a view to the legal regulations of net neutrality.”

Back in December, a spokesperson for Telekom, another of Germany’s leading ISPs, told digital rights news site Netzpolitik.org that the company was “critical of such network blocks.”

As XBIZ reported, Germany’s Commission for Youth Media Protection decided unanimously yesterday to impose a network ban on xHamster, alleging the adult tube site was in violation of the Youth Media Protection State Treaty and “is therefore illegal.”

Daily newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine noted that “the network ban is the harshest sanction provided by the German Telemedia Act” and that it “is unpopular and [was] quickly classified as ‘censorship.’”

The Commission, known in Germany as the KJM, issued the block order to Telekom, Vodafone, 1&1, Telefonica and PŸUR. The KJM's move came as a result of a campaign coordinated by the head of the state media authority of North Rhine-Westphalia, Tobias Schmid, reportedly using the slogan “No Surrender.”

“Of course, blocking the network is a dramatic intervention,” the obscure regional bureaucrat who has waged a one-man War on Porn told the Frankfurter Allgemeine. “With this offer, however, the right to freedom of expression should not be affected too much.”

According to Netzpolitik.org’s Sebastian Meineck, who has been tracking the story locally, yesterday’s KJM order to block xHamster is “the next escalation step in a long and drawn-out process.”

Telekom, Vodafone, 1&1 and Telefonica “announced that they would examine the blocking order,” Meineck reported after he contacted the ISPs yesterday.

xHamster Alleges Inefficiency, Selective Enforcement

An xHamster rep told the German Press Agency that the Schmid-driven network block is “far from an optimal solution” since “young people would switch to smaller sites where they can be exposed to more extreme content.”

xHamster said it is committed “to work with German authorities — if the rules apply across the industry.”

For Meineck, “the media regulator's crackdown on xHamster is just the beginning. Further proceedings against other porn sites are already under way, for example against Pornhub.com, the [second-]most visited porn site in Germany.”

Nevertheless, he added, “porn fans do not have to do without the option of xHamster for the time being. It can still be reached under alternative domains such as xHamster2.com, xHamster3.com or xHamster.desi. The current blocking order of the media supervisory authority only refers to the xHamster.com domain. A new procedure would have to be started for each additional domain. In addition, network blocks can be bypassed with technical tricks, such as VPN services, alternative DNS servers or the Tor browser.”

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