DNS-censoring Illegal Pharmaceutical Vendors - 24hdiet.com Blocked

by Tykling @ September 30, 2011 22:46

On 10 May 2011 the Danish Folketing adopted the bill L118 called "Draft Law amending the Law on drugs and the law on medical devices." The law was adopted by 110 votes for and 2 votes against. The law has the subtitle "Strengthening the enforcement effort against illegal drugs, etc." and thus we find the following addition:

ยง 39 b: It is not allowed for commercial providers of electronic communications networks or services to end-users (hereafter ISP) to provide access to an Internet domain from which illegal drugs are sold to users. Part 2: The prohibition in part 1 does not apply if the Internet domain is owned by a service provider who is established in a country within the EU or EEA.

So, Danish Internet providers are now required to DNS block access to websites that sell illegal drugs. The first domain, www.24hdiet.com has already been blocked by the Danish ISPs.

First a few words about the bill, the hearing, and the adoption of the law. The comments for the bill contain several interesting pieces of information:

  • The Interior and Health Ministry considers itself an authority responsible for, to the fullest extent possible, protecting consumers from inadvertently coming into possession of illegal drugs. - paternalism of the worst kind.
  • Studies have shown that providers of electronic communications networks or services that provide Internet access (hereafter ISP) have various ways of blocking access to a website eg via DNS blocking. This method is simple and virtually cost free for the ISP to implement. - I'm wondering how much they spent on those studies. In their defense they have managed to make a fairly complete list of all DNS-censorship efforts in Denmark: Gambling-pages, pages that depict child-abuse, allofmp3.com and thepiratebay.com.
  • A DNS service is a prerequisite for communication on the Internet - this is obviously factually incorrect, see also

It is advisable to read through the comments, it would be entertaining reading if it were not so tragic. An interesting part is the bit about the law not applying if the domain is owned by a provider who is established in an EU country. IANAL, but it sounds like a gaping loophole to me. Anyway, the key issue here is that they want to use DNS censorship to prevent people from inadvertently buying illegal drugs. How big is the problem they want to solve? Where are these Danes that apparently are going online instead of going to the pharmacy, completely unaware that it is illegal? Readers of this blog probably use an uncensored DNS server so check the page out: they sell ephedrine & caffeine based weight loss and fitness pills which were likely produced in a bathtub under miserable conditions somewhere. It's obviously a bad idea to eat the pills, people are perfectly aware that they are banned and people will buy them regardless.

The hearing had its own set of problems. The period was very short at only 19 days, and the list of organizations invited was a joke. The Internet Providers, the IT Political Association of Denmark, and all the others who ought to be consulted when considering something as serious as DNS censorship are all omitted from the hearing. In return, CVK, DTU, DSIM, DMS, IGL and a bunch of other acronyms got the opportunity to say something, but chose to say nothing. See all the hearing responses at this page on borger.dk.

When the Danish Telecommunications Industry became aware that they were not invited to the hearing, they were naturally pissed off. So the Ministry apologized and extended the hearing period a bit. Thus the Telecommunications Industry sent an answer after all, which as expected is the only sensible post in the debate. Their well-intentioned warnings to be careful with Internet censorship has been ignored, and about a month has now passed since the first domain was blocked as a result of L118.

Even if the hearing period had been longer, and even if everyone in the entire country had been invited to the hearing, we would probably still have ended up with more DNS censorship. One reason is a familiar problem in politics: A bill may contain a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, and politicians may be forced to vote yes to get the good stuff in, even if it also leads to some bad things. What we need is a way to make the politicians understand that DNS-censorship is a very bad thing, so they need to consider their decision very carefully before they decide. I notice that Enhedslisten voted against L118 as the only ones. I know they are against DNS censorship so one can hope that that is the reason they voted no. It's just not quite enough with 2 votes against when there are 110 for.

Finally, a bonus question: How long before 24hdiet.com or a similar dealer makes a website without a domain name, and what happens then?

Tags: censorship pharmaceutical vendors