Whether pornography, depictions of violence or hate speech, there is a great deal of content on the internet children and young people must be protected from. The legislator defines three categories that are important for the protection of minors from harmful media:
- Content with a harmful effect on their development
- Content illegal for minors but legal for adults
- Illegal content
When is online content harmful for children and young people? Harmful content is content that can emotionally overwhelm, unsettle or frighten minors. This includes, for example, erotic depictions, violent content, but also other frightening depictions, such as images of war and violence without any context. Such offers may be distributed on the internet. However, the respective providers are legally obliged to offer the content in such a way that children and young people do not usually perceive it.
What is content illegal for minors but legal for adults? Content illegal for minors but legal for adults is permitted for adults but prohibited for children and young people. In addition to pornographic offers, this obviously includes content that is seriously dangerous to their development. This can be, for example, pro-ana content, i.e. blogs and forums in which people suffering from anorexia (anorexia nervosa) exchange views and declare eating disorders to be a lifestyle. The Review Board for Media Harmful to Young People of the Federal Centre for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media (BzKJ) also publishes a list of content illegal for minors but legal for adults.
This content must be offered in such a way that only adults can access it. Age verification systems are a suitable technical option for this purpose.
What is illegal content? Illegal content is generally prohibited, even for adults. For the most part, this is content whose dissemination is already prohibited under the German Criminal Code (StGB), e.g. content glorifying violence and inciting hatred, instructions to commit criminal offences, the dissemination of propaganda material as well as sexual abuse material depicting minors, violent pornography and animal porn.