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Nowhere to hide

August 8, 2011

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has called for an end to anonymity on the Internet, in light of the Norway attacks. His comments were dismissed as naive by a political opponent.

A woman with a mask at a laptop
The minister wants blog writers to be unmaskedImage: fotolia

Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said there should be an end to anonymity on the Internet in light of the recent attacks in Norway.

A right-wing extremist, Anders Behring Breivik, whose bombing and shooting attacks killed 77 people in July, had espoused his anti-immigration view in a blog on the Internet.

The fundamentals of law and order "must also apply to the Internet," the minister told the German news magazine Spiegel. Friedrich claimed that it would be useful if individuals were forced to make their arguments publicly, rather than anonymously.

Friedrich argued that the Internet was leading to a new breed of radicalized lone individuals about whom security authorities were becoming increasingly concerned.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich
Friedrich claims some people are isolating themselves in an online worldImage: dapd

"There are more and more people who isolate themselves from their social surroundings and disappear into their own world on the Internet," said Friedrich.

"Once there they change, most of them without really notice," he said.

Dismissed as 'helpless naivity'

However, Friedrich's comments were criticized as "incredibly naive" by the opposition Social Democrat interior expert Dieter Wiefelspütz in an interview with the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

While saying that he sympathized with Friedrich's feelings on the matter, Wiefelspütz said it was not possible to regulate the Internet in such a way.

To think that trying to eliminate anonymity was a way to deal with the situation was described as "an expression of helplessness," by Wiefelspütz.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dapd, dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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