Updates to this story
In Germany, a few blogs and websites have already decided to throw in the towel before a law comes into effect from January 1, 2011. The so-called Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag (JMStV) will task anyone operating a .de domain with adding an age certificate to his or her website - imagine having to add a BBFC certificate on your blog.
Sounds like a dumb idea, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it is set to become reality due to politicians ratifying the law in the parliaments of Germany's 16 federal states.
Not only is the law idiotic, it is also totally superfluous. Age verification processes are already in place for German smut peddlers, which require users to have their age and identity checked to make sure they're not simply using dad's credit card. Verification using Deutsche Post's Postident identity check is the preferred method.
Yet one not need reckon with the common sense of politicians, pedagogues and demagogues who think existing, national laws governing movies and telly can also be slapped on the global internet that never sleeps.
As a consequence, popular German blog VZlog.de has said it will go offline on New Year's Eve. VZlog.de states it doesn't have the resources to check all of its content and comments, nor does it have the technical resources to slap an 18 certificate on it, make certain its readers are 18 and above using Postident, or simply put the site online at midnight and take it offline again in the early hours.
The blog, which covers popular German social notworking sites meinvz, studivz and schülervz and hailed by media pedagogues and officials, is mainly read by youngsters. Seventy percent of its readers are are under 18, its authors are ages 14 to 19, it is ad financed and will now be going offline.
It seems politicians don't believe kids and teenagers in Germany have the level of competency to use the internet properly and so must be protected from it, despite clearly demonstrating the contrary.
It seems the only people set to profit are lawyers, who are going to have a field day next year. Lawyers are expected to start sending out cease and desist letters to websites, telling them they're breaking the law and have to pay a couple of thousand euros.
Germany's Bürger haven't wakened up to the law as of yet, due to it being a contract ratified by the country's federal states, not a law passed in the Bundestag. The last bastion is Northrhine-Westphalia, currently under minority rule by a social democratic SPD/ Green coalition.
Unfortunately, the Green faction has stated it will vote for the law, despite the party council telling them not to.
Things are looking bleak in Germany if even the Greens, a party apparently devoted to civil liberties, votes for such an embarrassingly stupid law.