Germany's most populous state is requiring Internet providers to block two US-based neo-Nazi websites after a court ruled the measure did not violate the providers' rights, officials said Thursday.
The verdict followed months of legal wrangling between North Rhine-Westphalia's top new-media official, Juergen Buessow, and 18 Internet providers based in the state, who said they could not be held responsible for the sites' content.
"We don't want such content to be available to everyone," said Ulrich Schiefelbein, a spokesman for Buessow's office. He refused to name the US sites or the providers, citing German privacy laws.
German law makes public spreading of Nazi ideology a crime, but the Internet offers a loophole to neo-Nazi sites based abroad. German officials have repeatedly made efforts to block such content in recent years.
In the latest case, a district court in the city of Arnsberg ruled Dec 12 that Buessow's order for providers to block access to the two US websites was legal.
The providers are appealing to a higher state court and have threatened to leave North Rhine-Westphalia for other German states that don't have limiting regulations.
If the verdict against the providers stands, it could set a legal precedent in Germany that could have far-reaching implications for providers nationwide.