German Prosecutors Probe AOL

Published: 1996-02-02

Feb 2, 1996

Prosecutors in Germany have notified America Online Inc. (AOL) that it may be charged with inciting racial hatred. Prosecutors have recently served similar notice to CompuServe Inc., and T-Online, a division of Deutsche Telekom.

Publishing or distributing neo-Nazi literature or literature which questions any part of the orthodox Holocaust story is illegal in Germany. Violators are frequently charged with inciting racial hatred. Prosecutors are now trying to determine how best to enforce their draconian laws in the otherwise free atmosphere of the Internet.

The primary target of the German prosecutors is material posted by Ernst Zündel, a revisionist, nationalist, and German free-speech activist living in Toronto.

Deutsche Telekom has already buckled to the prosecutors' demands by blocking its 1 million subscribers from accessing any of the over 1,500 web-pages stored at Web Communications in California. This action was done with the sole purpose denying access to Zündel's materials. Computer users and free speech advocates from around the world have accused Deutsche Telekom of overreacting.

CompuServe, the second largest provider in Germany, was severely criticized in December for having banned over 200 newsgroups that were considered to be pornographic. They have not yet blocked the California server but were trying to work out a "solution" with the prosecutors.

AOL spokesman Ingo Reese said that his company was happy to work with the prosecutors. AOL is "totally opposed'' to illegal propaganda, he said. In spite of this, Reese argued that commercial on-line companies have as much control over materials posted on the Internet as telephone companies have over their customers' conversations.

Adapted from: The Associated Press 02/02/96

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): CODOH
Title: German Prosecutors Probe AOL
Sources: adapted from an Associated Press report of 02/02/96
Published: 1996-02-02
First posted on CODOH: Jan. 31, 1996, 6 p.m.
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