Germany’s legislative arm recently passed a bill aiming to subject anyone operating platforms on the dark web to harsher penalties.
The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia initiated the draft earlier this year.
They justified that anyone knowingly providing technical framework or services in the dark web that would lead to criminal activities such as the selling of weapons, drugs or child exploitation material should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting.
Now that the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) has accepted the draft, direct infringement of this law may see the suspects jailed for up to three years.
Furthermore, there is fear that the bill would criminalize the use of the Tor browser.
Critics are worried that the legislation would pose a threat to internet freedom and the right to remain anonymous.
Moreover, it may lead to the prosecution of nearly every offense in the dark web if it leads to the occurrence of a criminal offense.
The bill has now been submitted to the Bundestag Parliament for consideration of adopting it into law.
Higher, Broader and Severe Penalties
Earlier this month, the Legal and Interior Committee reviewed the legislation and proposed some amendments to the meet their satisfaction.
Some of the controversial changes it suggested were the introduction of harsher penalties for facilitating criminal activities not only in the dark web but also on the clearnet.
It means the bill would encompass all activities on the internet in general.
The second recommended change was the extension of the facilitating crime offense to the so-called bulletproof hosters.
These are hosting entities which provide routing services as well as storage space for third parties.
The other recommendation is the possible extension of the jail terms from three years to five years.
Additionally, the committee also called for the inclusion of foreign entities, which means that service providers could be penalized if their services are utilized to commit offenses in Germany.
However, under these new offenses including all the recommendations, more information would be needed to investigate and prosecute.
It, therefore, means there is a need to provide more power to the investigators.
It indicates that information from telecommunication surveillance as well as traffic data, online search data and data from home surveillance would be used.
The Dark Web Battle in Germany
The bill comes at a time when Germany is experiencing a drastic increase in drug-related crimes.
In 2017, there were close to 330,600 cases recorded. According to Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), such crimes are fuelled by the rise of darknet markets and how easy it is to get hold of the drugs.
Statistics indicate that of all drug-related crime in Germany, around 60 percent is attributed to marijuana.
Other than drugs, unregulated weapons equally remain a problem for German authorities.
For instance, in July 2017 an 18-year-old German went on a killing spree in Munich, killing nine and injuring several.
Since then, authorities in Germany have been consistent in fighting against the darknet and its related crimes.
They have even gone as far as joining forces with other European Union members to suppress the criminal activities of the dark web.
An example of such cooperation happened in February this year when the Dutch and German authorities took down an international crime ring involved in money laundering and drug trafficking via the dark web.
However, many individuals believe this isn’t enough to hold back the growth of the dark web—the reason being that the end of one drug kingpin or marketplace will meet the rise of another.
Governments have resulted in formulating strategies, policies and laws like this one to tame the dark web.
Unfortunately, this means people are going to lose internet freedom as well as live through a life of constant surveillance.
Even the act of using tools that promote anonymity is under threat from authorities.
Until then only time will tell what effects such a law will have on the dark web as well as the internet in general.
After Bundesrat approved the bill on March 15, it has now moved on to German parliament, who will decide whether they want to move forward with the proposal.
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