Blocking bad content does not equal doing good things

by Tykling @ October 23, 2010 21:40

One of the reasons most people initially like the idea of blocking child abuse images online is very basic: Blocking something bad, equals doing something good. The less bad stuff we can see online, the better. This is a common misconception. There is nothing good about blocking content that should never be online in the first place. The right thing to do when such content is found should be obvious:

  • Get the content offline.
  • Deal with the people responsible for putting it online (if they can be found).
  • Deal with the people responsible for creating the content (if they can be found).

The formal argument for blocking content, instead of actually doing something about it, goes something like this: "The content is all hosted in countries we have no influence in". In other words, the content is hosted in parts of the world where sending an email to an ISP abuse department is unlikely to change anything. This is completely incorrect. The content we block (in Denmark at least) is largely hosted in the US and in Europe (Source: the presentation at the bottom of this page). I prepared and gave that presentation myself by the way.

What we are doing in Denmark (and other countries that block child abuse images) is extremely selfish. The politicians believe they "solve" the problem in our end, given that our Internet users can no longer access the content, but we leave the content online for the rest of the world. Our time and money would be much better spent actually getting the content offline, and charging the people responsible with their crimes where possible.

This whole point has recently been made extremely well by the German group AK Zensur in this blog post called "Access Blocking means looking away instead of acting". Highly recommended reading.

Tags: censorship