Fighting Neo-Nazis on the Net | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.01.2002
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Fighting Neo-Nazis on the Net

Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily is caught in a battle with U.S. Neo-Nazis over a domain name for a website. And the more publicity the story gets, the more clicks the Nazi website gets.


Neo-Nazis use the internet to distribute racist propaganda

German Interior Minister Otto Schily is furious. He's receiving praise from the wrong kind of people - and whatever move he makes will only make the situation worse.

Schily is up in arms over the fact that Gary Lauck, head of the U.S. Neo-Nazi group NSDAP/AO, is spreading racist and anti-Semitic propaganda through a website with an address very similar to that of the German Interior Ministry.

Gary Lauck

American neo-Nazi Gary Lauck

Ever since the story was made public, the Nazi website has been getting an increasing number of extra clicks. Lauck therefore thanks Schily on the website, "because he made a major contribution to this, even if - presumably - completely unintentionally."

Small detail - big effect

The only difference between the domain name of the official site of the German Interior Ministry (Bundesinnenministerium) and the Neo Nazi website is the suffix of the URL: Schily has registered the domain name Lauck's organization is using the same name with the suffixes ".com" and ".net".

A large number of people looking for information about official German government policies may have therefore accidentally landed on a Neo-Nazi propaganda website decorated with swastikas, pictures of Adolf Hitler and racist banners.

The Neo-Nazis claim their website has had 850,000 clicks in the past three days alone. They attribute this to the media coverage Schily's campaign against the domain name has provoked.

They have now even added a picture of Schily to their website with the caption "We thank Germany's Minister of the Interior Otto Schily!"

Intellectual property

Bundestagsdebatte über Immigrationsgesetz

German Interior Minister Otto Schily

Schily has meanwhile decided to appeal to the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The German Interior Minister hopes the organizations will clarify that a domain with the name "Bundesinnenministerium" (Federal Ministry of the Interior) should only lead to an official ministry website.

Schily has also talked to politicians and lawyers in the U.S. about the issue. But he knows that there is not much he can achieve through legal means. The internet is governed by a policy of free speech - and that also includes the freedom to publish racist material.

Repeat performance

Otto Schily has fought the American Neo-Nazis once before. Last year, Lauck's extremist organization registered a domain name which was very similar to that of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz).

One of the tasks of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is to combat right-wing extremism and Neo-Nazism in Germany. On its official website, it offers a wealth of information about skinheads and Neo-Nazi violence. In addition, the office has introduced a program to help people get out of Neo-Nazi groups.

In the case of the American Neo-Nazis abusing the domain name "Verfassungsschutz", Otto Schily managed to score a success. He is now hoping for a repeat performance with the domain name "Bundesinnenministerium".

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