Five and a half years of stupidity - follow the money

by Tykling @ January 13, 2011 22:01

Since the fall of 2005 the Danish Internet providers has semi voulentarily been a part of Save the Children Denmark and the National Danish Police forces blocking of pages that contain child-abuse images. That's five and a half years and I feel like it is time to take a step back and consider why we accept this censorship. The website of the Danish Police has the following statement about the purpose of the blocking (my translation):

What is the purpose of the blocking? The purpose of the participation in the blocking by the National Police force is to limit the spread and availability of illegal materials as defined by §235 of the Danish Penal Code.

First let me get one thing straight: This is definately a purpose worth fighting for - the Danish Penal Codes § 235 is about pictures or videos of abuse of people under the age of 18 years. But blocking doesn't limit the spread - even other countries have noticed that the Danish blocking does more harm than good. The blocking has lots of other unfortunate side-effects as well:

  • The blocking can function as an "early-warning" system for the very same criminals that it attempts to fight. It is not difficult for an administrator to set up monitoring to send an alert as soon as a website ends up on a blockinglist like the Danish. The administrator now knows he has been "discovered" and he can run and hide, and continue the business under a different name.
  • There are technical problems with placing blocking in the DNS system when what you really want to block is HTTP traffic. The DNS query is the first step in establishing a connection to a server, regardless of protocol. The blocking ironically also makes it impossible to send an email to a blocked domain so I assume that the Police use an uncensored DNS server when they send emails to get illegal content removed - they do send such emails, right ?
  • The "Gradual Censorship" effect has been a fact for a while now. The latest developments are suggestions to block gambling pages and unapproved pharmaceutical vendors.
  • When we censor our own internet we loose our credibility when criticizing countries like Iran or China for performing internet censorship.

The list goes on. With all these issues and no real benifits from the blocking one has to wonder why we still censor our DNS servers in Denmark. This is where Save the Children Denmark enter the picture. Save the Children Denmark has since 1998 been operating a hotline where people can report pages that contain images of child abuse. Save the Children Denmark has since 2001 received funding for operating said hotline. The funding comes from the Danish Social Ministery and the EU. The latest numbers I've been able to find are 3.6 million DKK in 2008 and 4 million DKK in 2009 not including the funding from the EU.

With this in mind can we expect Save the Children Denmark to do anything other than recommend keeping the blocking in place ? Comon did this interview with Kuno Sørensen from Save the Children Denmark as a reaction to the German analysis linked earlier in this post. Some very hard criticism is directed at the Danish blocking but Kuno Sørensen does not discuss removing the filter at all, even though it has the oppsite effect of the intention. The organisation who are getting funding to maintain the blocking are not the ones we should ask whether the blocking is still a good idea or if it ever was.

Tags: censorship