German legislative body wants to tighten penalties against black marketplace operators

Pierluigi Paganini March 16, 2019

Germany’s states have decided to criminalize black marketplace operators with the introduction of specific federal legislation.

Germany’s states have voted to punish operators of dark web platforms with the introduction of federal legislation. The legislation aims at criminalizing every operator behind darkweb marketplaces where illegal activities take place.

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This Friday, therefore, the German Federal Council discussed an amendment to the Criminal Code. The bill, which has been proposed by the North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Justice Peter Biesenbach (CDU) introduces a new criminal record that punishes with up to three years imprisonment “who offers an internet-based service whose access and accessibility is limited by special technical precautions, and whose purpose or activity is directed to commit or promote certain illegal acts”. Black marketplace operators should even face imprisonment of up to ten years.

The legislative body that represents Germany’s 16 federal states (Länder), the Bundesrat, voted for the amendment and it will propose the draft law to the Bundestag.

The bill follows the end of the trial of the Elysium platform after three years of investigation, four convictions, an exchange for child pornography. The defendants face high prison sentences, the operators of the illegal Tor services operated from a workshop in Bad Camberg, Germany.

The Elysium website had more than 87,000 members, most of the users were from Austria and Germany. The platform was used by pedophiles and criminals to exchange pedo-pornographic content and according to German police, it was also used to arranged meetings to abuse children physically.

The police identified and arrested the administrator of the group, a 39-year-old man from Hesse region of Germany. The man was arrested on 12th June during a raid in his apartment, the agents seized the server used by the suspect. The investigation resulted in the arrest of other suspects.

Privacy advocates criticized the law and warn of possible misinterpretation that could lead to the criminalization of every individual who runs a hidden service.

“According to Matthias Bäcker and the Berlin judge Ulf Buermeyer, there are no reasons for tightening the law. There are already sufficient criminal standards for the trade in drugs, weapons or child pornography and these are of course also for offers in the Darknet.” reported the Zeit Online.

“That the prosecution works, as the recent case of Elysium has shown. “The bill involves a huge risk of criminalizing completely unproblematic behavior, creating huge risks for people who run Internet platforms,” said Buermeyer, who is also the chairman of the Society for Freedom Rights,Deutschlandfunk .

“The same applies to Jens Kubieziel. He is a board member of the association Onelfreunde , which works for confidential communication and the Tor network. “I’ve talked to several lawyers and almost everyone thinks that the change in the law could affect relays,” he says in an interview with ZEIT ONLINE. “

Stay tuned …

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Dark Web, black marketplaces)

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