On April 16, 1997, government officials in Munich, Germany made public the fact that criminal pornography charges were made against the managing director of Compuserve's German and Central European operations. The charges are based upon Compuserve giving German citizens access to Internet newsgroups containing images of child pornography, violent sex, and sex with animals. The specific charges are "assisting in the distribution of pornographic materials as well as premeditated and negligent violation of laws concerning writings that are dangerous to youths." The later charge relates to computer games accessible through Compuserve that glorify violence and contain Nazi symbols.
The Bavarian prosecutor's office began investigating a possible criminal action against Compuserve in 1995. The investigation at that time caused Compuserve to close down access to over 200 sexual newsgroups world- wide while Compuserve determined how to merely shut down access by German citizens. This case has huge implications concerning free speech on the Internet, national sovereignty in Cyberspace, and the liability of access providers for Internet content created by others.
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