Want to watch something on YouTube? Get ready to show your ID first — if you live in Germany, that is. Politicians from the conservative German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are proposing a bill that would force online video sites to institute strict registration requirements for all of their users. Even casual video viewers would have to register with full name, address and federal ID card number before being able to access a single clip. The measure is geared at reducing the number of violent and gang-related videos on YouTube.
Registration requirements like these may sound drastic, but they’re not without precedent in Germany. Politicians have instituted even harsher access barriers for porn sites, and the country is in the process of setting up an official Internet censorship list that would require ISPs to deny access to thousands of illegal web sites.
The proposal for the ID check is being spearheaded by the youth branch of the CDU, but it’s already got backing from party leaders, according to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. The CDU is currently the most popular party in Germany and part of a coalition government headed up by the country’s conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel.
“Youth gangs use the Internet for hateful messages…similar to the criminal role models of the American rap scene,” a representative of the party’s young conservatives told the paper. The group also wants the police to keep a close eye on YouTube in order to “take action and shut off” access to violent videos.
Germany has a long history of media regulation in the name of protecting kids from violence, porn and hate speech. The country has an official censorship body that regularly publishes a list of “indexed” books, movies and computer games. These products can’t be publicly displayed in any store and can only be sold to customers over 18 years of age.
Restrictions are even harsher for online media, especially when it comes to porn. Germany-based porn sites routinely ask users to go down to their local post office, show their ID and sign a contract verifying their identity in front of a postal worker.
South Korea recently enacted ID requirements for YouTube users similar to the ones now being proposed in Germany in that the site was supposed to register its users’ federal ID numbers before allowing them to upload videos or contribute comments. But YouTube rebuked these efforts and instead disabled any content contributions from Korean accounts. In a statement to its Korean users, parent company Google wrote: “We believe that it is important for free expression that people have the right to remain anonymous if they choose.”