December 29, 1995
Updated at: 2:04 p.m. EST (1904 GMT)
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) - CompuServe, Inc. announced Thursday that it would indefinitely suspend member access to over 200 Internet newsgroups because German authorities consider them pornographic under law. The Columbus, Ohio-based unit of H & R Block did not identify the newsgroups under the suspension.
"We were told to do what is necessary to comply with German laws," said CompuServe media relations officer Russ Robinson.
Robinson said that a Munich prosecutor first came to CompuServe offices in the German city "several weeks ago" in the company of police officers as part of an ongoing government investigation into pornography on the Internet. Late last week the company was served with orders to comply with German law.
"We are put in the position of defending content we do not control. We believe some of it (the German order) is defensible, but some is subjective."
-- Russ Robinson, CompuServe media relations officer
A CompuServe press release states that as "the leading global service, CompuServe must comply with the laws of the many countries in which we operate. However laws in different countries are often in conflict, and this creates new challenges unique to the emerging online industry."
Robinson said CompuServe has ordered a speed-up in development of parental control software for its online service, which it hopes to have in place by the end of January. Two other major online services, America Online and Prodigy, already have software that allows parents to restrict access to certain sites.
No software exists to restrict user access to selected news groups by geographical location, but CompuServe and the other online companies are trying to develop such an ability.
Members of CompuServe may still access the suspended newsgroups if they have a direct connection to the Internet outside CompuServe. The German investigation, and grumblings in the U.S. Congress to ban certain content on the Internet, may signal the start of more rules for the previously unregulated Internet.
CompuServe is the largest Internet access provider in Germany, and has more than 500,000 subscribes in Western Europe.
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