Germany’s Pirate Party has moved beyond its seemingly humorous origins to become a serious political force. Since last year, it has received over 7% of the vote in three different regional elections, enabling it to claim seats in the local parliaments.
However, in Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, which is scheduled to hold its election this Sunday, the Pirate Party has fallen victim to a bizarre though seemingly unintentional act of censorship.
As reported by Rick Falkvinge, who founded the first Pirate Party in Sweden in 2006, “The Piratenpartei‘s website has been discovered to be censored in schools. These state-run institutions do not allow people – voters – to read what policies the challenger party stands for. Specifically, it is the election program of the German Pirate Party that is being actively censored in schools, under the category ‘illegal drugs.’”
“Apparently, expressing a desire to change the law,” he continues, “is seen as just as dangerous as breaking the law – just questioning the current policy: enough to suppress freedom of speech in the state-run schools.”
The censorship came to light just as the Dutch Pirate Party was being court-ordered to not only remove any links from its website to the Pirate Bay but to refrain from sending visitors to other sites that might allow them to get around the blockade of the Pirate Bay by Dutch ISPs and illegally download copyrighted materials.
A message at the Dutch Pirate Party’s website describes the ruling as “a slap in the face for the free internet” and charges that “the judge decided to give the Netherlands another nudge on the gliding scale of censorship.”
According to Falkvinge, the German schools say their own act of censorship was not deliberate and blame it on their net filtering software. He also notes that something similar happened during Sweden’s 2006 elections, when the Pirate Party’s website became inaccessible to all public offices in one of the country’s largest regions. In both cases, it appears that the ultimate responsibility lay with corporations in the United States that designed the filtering criteria.
A comment on a message board, which could not be independently verfied, claims that the German Pirate Party website was blocked by “an incompetent configuration of a filter software” which has already been corrected.
“If this is not a demonstration of the utter rejectability of censorship,” Falkvinge concludes, “and why it should never be allowed under any circumstance, as events like this will happen, I don’t know what would be the necessary demonstration.”
Photo of Rick Falkvinge and Julian Assange by Rickard Olsson [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons