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German media is reporting that German MP Jörg Tauss is now defecting to the German Pirate Party (Piratenpartei), after leaving his party (the Social Democrats) in protest over Germany's new Internet censorship bill, which would require ISPs to block access to known child-pornographic web sites.

Thing is, Tauss is himself under investigation for possessing child-porn, which could make him a somewhat dubious spokesperson...

In several ways, it's reminicent of the recent defection (or not) of Hiram Monserrate in the NY Senate, who also defected after being charged with a serious and reputation-destroying crime.

Although unlike Monserrate, Tauss doesn't deny the charge of possessing child porn in itself. He claims it was for 'research purposes' (an exemption to the law) in his position as a member of the Bundestag. While he's yet to be tried, the scandal surrounding Tauss was enough for the SPD (Social Democrats) to suspend his committee chairmanships and other positions, pending. His re-election chances were probably fairly slim, so he pulled a Specter and jumped ship.

The SPD, on the other hand, is now demanding he give up his seat. He was elected as a Social Democrat, and his seat therefore 'belongs' to the party. Unlike the USA, Germany and most European parliamentarian systems, have elections where you vote for a party, primarily, not an individual. Individual party members are much more bound to follow the party line. 'Morally' the seat does belong to them. But legally, I don't believe they have a leg to stand on. All they can do is demand he hand over the seat - which is unlikely.

The German Pirate Party on the other hand, welcomes their new MP, saying there's no reason to doubt his honesty unless he's convicted. A similar sentiment was expressed by the founder of the original Swedish Pirate Party, when
interviewed on the matter in the Swedish press. He also points out that it's nevertheless a historic first member of a national parliament for the nascent movement.

It's an ambivalent situation to say the least. Personally, I support Germany's ban on the possession of child porn. I think it's wrong to think that the abuse stops once the photos have been produced. On the other hand, I whole-heartedly oppose this new Internet-censorship scheme, created by conservative 'family minister' Ursula von der Leyen, nicknamed 'Zensursula' (zensur, censorship), by her critics.

It's a bad law in two ways: The first, is that it simply won't be effective. Internet blocks and censorship don't work very well. The events unfolding in Iran at this very moment, illustrate well how futile government censorship can be. It's simply technically impossible with anything less than monitoring all Internet traffic.

Secondly, it's a form of prior restraint, and as such should be used with extreme caution and restraint in a democracy, as not to infringe on legitimate free speech. A scattershot blocking of lists of 'suspect' websites is anything but a restrained approach. A recent censoring of Wikipedia by six UK ISPs illustrates well how real this risk is.

Whether you're for or against this censorship, the concerns are real and legitimate - and have been opposed by other parties than the PP, e.g. the Greens. Over a hundred thousand Germans have signed a petition against the legislation. Nevertheless, as it has the support of the main parties, the law is set to pass.

The great dilemma for the Pirates, and everyone else who's opposed this legislation, is whether or not they want Tauss to speak for them. Could there be a worse spokesperson than someone suspected of child porn crimes? I hope this doesn't distract too much from the real issues at hand. And if Tauss clears his name, I wish him the best of luck.

Originally posted to BluePlatypus on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 07:54 AM PDT.

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