The German technology ministry has made it clear that Internet service providers will not be expected to constantly search their systems to find illegal material. They will be only liable for information of which they were aware, and which they were technically able to prevent.
This sets a precedent at variance with attempts by other governments to crack down on illegal content by making ISPs more responsible. They are particularly concerned about pornography, anti-establishment propaganda, fraudulent transactions and bomb manufacturing manuals spreading via the Internet, particularly to adolescents and children.
In the light of US legislation this year, particularly the Communications Decency Act, the German government has been unexpectedly lenient. The Clinton legislation has been poorly received by the ?global cyber-community?, which perceives the regulations as infringements on their civil liberties. When the Act was passed early this year many Websites went offline in protest. The Act has subsequently been deemed unconstitutional in the US courts.
Analysts have been expecting governments to be very harsh on service providers, which are perceived by many to be the only parties that can wield power over errant Web sites, which often operate from outside government jurisdictions and are difficult to trace. But, with millions of pages carried, ISPs argue that it is almost impossible for them to constantly dredge through every site carried by their service.
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