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The Politics of Internet Filtering: The United Kingdom and Germany in a Comparative Perspective

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Abstract

Debates around appropriate regulation of Internet content have become increasingly common in liberal democracies, despite the fact that relatively little is known about the actual processes of Internet content regulation. The following article studies the institutional development of content regulatory institutions in the United Kingdom and Germany to explore this phenomenon. It will be argued that the divergent paths of Internet filtering in both countries can be understood by looking at the development of the relevant regulatory institutions. As most Internet filtering and content regulation is implemented through private actors, the article will explore the relationship between public and private actors in both countries in the evolving regulatory debate. In this context it can be argued that the ability of the UK and Germany to enforce their own policy goals depends primarily on the ability of the state to make credible regulatory and legislative threats towards private actors. In conclusion it is suggested that the coercion of private sector actors is a key regulatory practice not just in online content regulation but in the wider field of Internet governance.

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