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Controversy arises over neo-Nazi domain names

IDG.net

BERLIN (IDG) -- In the midst of a renewed debate over right-wing extremism, Germany's central Internet registry is facing scrutiny over neo-Nazi domain names.

DENIC eG (Deutsches Network Information Center) in Frankfurt, which administers the top-level domain .de, deleted the domain name "heil-hitler.de" Monday, some four days after it was registered.

Use of the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler" is illegal in Germany.

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"We've just been informed by a client of the Internet provider which has registered the domain name," said spokesman Klaus Herzig at DENIC. He added that following normal procedure, the name was registered after the ISP (Internet service provider) STRATO Medien AG sent an automatic e-mail request. When a user wants to register a domain name, the ISP automatically forwards the request to DENIC.

"It's really difficult (to control domain names) because we have 200,000 registrations in a month, so it's every 15 seconds that we register a new domain name," Herzig said.

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STRATO spokesman Sren Heinze said his company has its own policy against offensive domain names. "We've always said, if we find something, we remove it immediately," he said.

Germany's Justice Ministry is pressuring DENIC to keep neo-Nazi domain names off the Web. "Everyone has a responsibility when we say as a society we want no right-wing radicalism," said ministry spokesman Christian Arns. "To that extent, we want to hold DENIC responsible too."

Arns added that Justice Minister Herta Dubler-Gmelin, has offered to help coordinate an effort against neo-Nazi domain names. "The question is what you can do about domain names that are distasteful but not illegal," he said "You can't say www.schlagjedenauslaendertot.de ("kill all foreigners"). That would be instigating a crime."

But he added that domain names with a neo-Nazi twist, like hitleristganztoll.de ("Hitler is really great"), would theoretically be legal.

A check of DENIC's search engine shows that site names like hitler.de, adolfhitler.de, and adolf-hitler.de have been registered, though there is currently no content attached to them.

Arns said the Justice Minister will work with anti-racism and minority groups to compile a list of potentially offensive names, suggesting that DENIC could forward anyone who attempted to access such a Web site to an information page on combating right-wing extremism.

But DENIC's Herzig was skeptical about the idea. "We think that a list would not solve the problem," he said, since there are endless possible combinations such as "heilhitler1," "heilhitler2," and the like. "I cannot imagine that you can put all these possibilities on this list." He added that a better solution is for ISPs to react quickly when users try to register an offensive name.

Asked about the problem of neo-Nazi websites registered outside Germany, Arns said there's no legal action German authorities can take, but that they can rely on moral pressure.

"A company has to decide how it wants to make money," he said. "We're just trying to create a high sensibility (in Germany), and we hope also that a similar discussion will take place in other countries."




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