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This week in the world of questionable online censorship decisions: The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has banned the logos of two biker gangs from the internet.
The Hells Angels and Bandidos gangs have been problematic in some areas of Germany for some time, particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), where for years they’ve been fighting deadly turf wars over drugs and prostitution. Local chapters have been banned in NRW since 2012 and authorities have recently moved to enforce a ban on their symbols, too.
Physical displays of the logos have technically been banned across the country since 1983, though that legal interpretation was only clarified earlier this year in a ruling by the Hamburg regional court.
On Tuesday, NRW interior minister Ralf Jäger announced that the ban on the Hells Angels’ helmeted skull logo and the Bandidos’ “Fat Mexican” logo would extend to the internet as well. He said this “zero-tolerance” strategy would hinder the ability of the so-called rocker gangs to promote themselves online.
“The deceptive image of motorcycle romance has glorified the view of the criminal reality,” he said in a statement.
I’ve repeatedly tried to ask Jäger’s office how this is supposed to work in practice: Does it mean only local websites must delete these logos? Will foreign websites bearing the logos also risk fines if people in NRW view them? However, I’ve not had any luck getting a response.
English-language German news site TheLocal.de had a bit more luck, eliciting this response from a spokesperson: “Offenders will be tracked down based on the website and punished.”