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Internet Abuse

DW staff (db)November 20, 2008

Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen says she wants online service providers to block offensive Web sites. She says it is up to Internet firms to pull the plug "immediately" on child pornography.

blurred police photos with child pornography content
Child pornography on the Internet is on the riseImage: AP

The Federal Crime Office is compiling a list of Web sites that post images of children being sexually abused, von der Leyen said. Currently, pictures of tortured children are downloaded from the internet about 50,000 times per month.

"I want to build a dam against the flood of pictures by blocking access for the users," Von der Leyen, herself a mother of seven, said in the interview published Thursday, Nov. 20, in Hamburger Abendblatt.

She added that the amount of child pornography on the Web is spiraling out of control.

"The numbers are exploding -- the distribution of such pictures doubled last year," she said. "Children's souls and bodies are being torn apart by brutal rapes."

One out of three children is under the age of three, said the minister.

Change to media law may be necessary

Von der Leyen, who is from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, said her plans require a change to German media law, but noted that all of Germany's political parties are in favor of doing so.

Internet providers in Scandinavian countries, in Italy and in Britain already effectively block child pornography sites to a large extent.

According to German criminal statistics, the number of cases of purchase and circulation of child pornography increased by 55 percent last year to more than 11,000; acquisition via the internet doubled.

This year, police investigated more than 12,000 suspected child pornography users, confiscated 2,700 video cassettes, 17,000 CDs and DVDs, and 250 computers and hard disks.

The German child support organization Deutsche Kinderhilfe welcomed von der Leyen's announcement as a step in the right direction, but urged harsher fines for viewers of child pornography.

Downloading commercial films is punishable with up to three years in prison, the organization says, while downloading sites with child pornography is punishable with up to two years.