German states approve law targeting dark web platform operators

Germany’s federal states have voted in favour to introduce laws to punish dark web operators that use the platform to carry out illegal activities, such as selling firearms, drugs, or illegal content, according to a ZDNet report.

The federal-state legislation body called “Bundesrat” voted for the new measure on Friday (March.15th) last week, and will now present the draft law to the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament.

Draft law

The German federal parliament will then review the proposal and decide whether or not to pass it as a new law.

It is of course already against the law to sell drugs or offer hitman services over such sites, which operate away from the open internet.

As the operators of the Elysium child sexual-abuse platform recently learned earlier this month, dark-web platform operators can face imprisonment.

However, the states believe more should be done to crack down on dark web infrastructure providers.

Some legal experts believe that these people are covered by existing laws as aiders and abettors, but the Bundesrat thinks they remain in too much of a legal grey area.

The proposal, which was approved last Friday, was put forward by states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse.

The law calls for those who provide that enable criminal offences and where access is “limited by special technical precautions”.

This means that services might only be available through services like Tor and I2P.

According to the ZDNet report, the documentation that is part of the draft legislation specifically mentions Tor.

Jail terms

It would impose jail terms of up to three years in the case of platforms used to distribute drugs, explosives, and child sexual abuse material.

Bavaria tried to amend the proposed legislation to cover all websites as well as the dark web. It also tried to push through “the use of telecommunication surveillance and state Trojans”, but those amendments failed, according to a Netzpolitik report.

However, some fear that the proposal is still too expansive. Criminal Lawyer David Schietinger told Der Spiegel that the measure would restrict human right by making it too dangerous for anyone to operate dark web services, even for those that intend to use it for legitimate purposes.

He said the provision’s wording means it could apply to operators of a “classic online platform” that use measures such as password protections.

“Indirectly, the new measure could have the effect of severely restricting or banning the dark web,” Schietinger said. “That’s not the point.”

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