Updated Oct 18, 2013 at 12:47AM EDT by Brad.

Added Jun 28, 2009 at 04:06AM EDT by gronk.

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Zensursula is the online nickname given to Ursula von der Leyen, the former German Minister for Family Affairs who came under media scrutiny in 2009 for her strong advocacy of censorship laws against online content that may be deemed “inappropriate” by the federal government, especially on the issue of child pornography.


In January 2009, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Family Affairs launched the first government initiative towards more strict censorship of child pornography on the Internet. Formally known as the Access Impediment Act, it was drafted under the leadership of the Family Affairs minister Ursula von der Leyen[1], one of the staunchest advocates of Internet censorship in the federal government.

The Act proposed a mandatory blockage of online child pornography by Internet service providers through a blacklist of illegal websites maintained by the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA). In the following days, the legislative proposal sparked a political debate among German Internet users about whether the state may or should have an infrastructure to censor the internet.


While the initiative was mostly geared towards taboo topics like terrorism and child pornography, the scope of online debate became focused on general censorship of content on the web. Due to her vocal support of the censorship laws, the critics dubbed the Family Affairs minister “Zensursula,” a portmanteau of the German word “Zensur” (Censorship) and her first name “Ursula.” The nickname quickly gave way to a slew of parodies including original songs and remixes.

From the debate and news media coverage also emerged a catchphrase “Das Internet darf kein rechtsfreier Raum sein,”[3] which means “the Internet must not be a lawless territory.” The slogan was initially adopted by advocates of internet censorship, but gradually became re-appropriated by the detractors with a layer of irony.

Another point of controversy and public ridicule arose from a particular clause[4] which would require Internet service providers in Germany to display “stop” signs on the browser when Internet users try to access child pornography sites. Critics argued that such measure would be ineffective in preventing the spread of child porn, given that such taboo materials are rarely traded on open websites, but via peer-to-peer protocols. Soon, various images and videos featuring stop sign parodies and Ursula von der Leyen began to surface on the German web.

Pirate Protests

Throughout June 2009, a series of protests were held throughout Berlin, Hamburg and rest of the country, which drew participation from various circles of digital rights activism including German Anonymous and members of the Pirate Party.

Legislation in Germany

In February 2010, a federal law was passed regarding internet censorship of child pornography access and distribution. As a result of the German Elections in September 2009 and the coalition talks between CDU and FDP, the enacted law was adjusted to focus on deleting illegal sites instead of blocking the users access.

Derivative: Censilia

As Germany tried to find a balance on this issue topic, the European Parliament also drafted a similar Union-wide access impediment act under the leadership of the Swedish politician Cecilia Malmström.[6] Since taking the office of European Commissioner for Home Affairs in February 2010, Malmström has proposed stronger sanctions against the spread of child pornography by enforcing member states to block access to child pornography on the Internet. The proposal drew similar criticisms from the opposition, as well as earning her the nickname Censilia as a follow-up of Zensursula.

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