Technofile: Links, Rechts

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The Independent Culture
Last year, the German authorities advised Internet service providers to block access to the web edition of a magazine called Radikal, whose print editions had long been banned in Germany. Although some service providers complied, the main effect of the move was to publicise the Radikal web pages and cause them to proliferate: they were promptly reproduced on about 50 more sites as a protest against censorship. German prosecutors brought charges against Angela Marquardt, then aged 25 and deputy chair of the post-communist Party of Democratic Socialism, for putting a link on her home page to the Radikal server in The Netherlands. Radikal represents the autonomous, anarchistic Left, which argues that violent political action may be legitimate. In one issue, it published instructions on how to sabotage railway signals, a tactic which might appeal to activists trying to prevent the transport of radioactive materials. Marquardt was accused of supporting such actions.

She was acquitted last summer, on the grounds that the offending article had been posted after she had created the link, and so she may not have known of its existence. She certainly does now, but the link is still in place. The authorities have also refused to back down. They are now prosecuting her again, for publishing her charge sheet. Marquardt says she merely showed it to a few friends.

Although Germany has now passed the world's most comprehensive law on the Internet, the Radikal case demon- strated that its regulatory ambitions have limits in practice. Anybody can find the Radikal page in a couple of minutes using a search engine, though any teenagers looking for vandalism tips will need a command of German. But powers higher than the German state appear to be taking an interest in the affair. If you click on the link leading from the Radikal home page back to Marquardt's, the address suddenly changes, and your browser moves in a mysterious way to the home page of a Christian rock musician.