Germans take YouTube to court over ‘hate films’

By Toby Axelrod, March 27, 2008
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The video-sharing website YouTube has become an unwitting purveyor of hate material, but it should not accept this role, the Central Council of Jews in Germany has warned.

Stephan Kramer, its secretary general, filed a lawsuit in Hamburg last week on behalf of the Council, asking for a temporary injunction to pull especially offensive hate material from YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, the US-based web search business.

In one video cited, a photograph of the late president of the Central Council, Paul Spiegel, was burned against a background of swastikas, according to Mr Kramer.

He said such material made YouTube, and hence Google, collaborators in spreading hate. A spokesman for the Hamburg-based Google Germany said that a filter was in the works, but that in the meantime the firm relied on its team of experts and on tips from the public. A spokesperson for the Hamburg District Court told the JC that there would be no comment on the suit, filed on March 20, until Google had replied officially. Due to the long Easter weekend, the injunction had not yet been processed by press time.

“It is lying on their desk and they asked for some patience,” Mr Kramer told the JC. He said he believed Google should hire more staff and “set them down and let them look through the net for key words”.

As far as filters were concerned, Mr Kramer was more sceptical. Google might be able to “send some of its board members to Mars or Venus first”, he said.

Humans are already better equipped than machines to find and remove child pornography and copyrighted material from the internet, he added.

Google Germany spokesman Stefan Keuchel told reporters last week that the firm agreed that such material is an abuse of the public forum, and they have been seeking ways to block it. Meanwhile, the public is encouraged to report potentially illegal videos, which experts then review and can remove. Once something is banned, a special filter prevents it from being reloaded.

YouTube — which allows members to “publish” their own material free of charge — went online with its German edition on November 8, 2007, one year after the site was purchased by Google. Observers of the far-right scene in Germany quickly found videos on the site from banned music groups, including Landser, and films about supposed Jewish conspiracies. The use of Nazi propaganda is illegal here, as is Holocaust denial.

Last summer, the Central Council and other non-governmental organisations launched a campaign urging internet providers in Germany to monitor the content of websites and remove those with banned material.

    Last updated: 8:23am, June 3 2008