Karin Spaink on Wed, 20 Feb 2008 02:16:29 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Finnish and Dutch child porn filters

Today, many newspapers and net magazines ran articles about the
Finnish child porn filters. In today's Parool - a Dutch newspaper - i
wrote a large article about the same matter. The argument for
blocking is that the sites in question are in 'weird' countries such
as Russia. However, the Finish list that Matti Nikki compiled,
carries 138 Dutch sites.

Using his list I tested the Dutch kiddie porn filter and found 10
blocked sites: 1 UK, 1 defunct, 4 US and 4 Dutch sites. If the Dutch
police authorities, who compiled the Dutch balcklist, says they are
kiddie porn sites, they should shut them down and not force ISPs to
merely hide them.

Actually, what I found means that

a) Dutch parliament has been lied to: most sites _are_
   in countries that have valid laws against child porn
b) the Dutch police uses ISPs to clean up their mess.

Meanwhile, two political parties have asked questions in Parliament
about my findings.

My article follows. It is webbed at

=== fwd ===

Child pornography: fight it or hide it? (Het Parool, Feb 19, 2008)

Karin Spaink

Last year October, Dutch Parliament demanded that the Department of
Justice would legally bind ISPs to implement a filter that would
block sites containing child pornography. 'Providers can no longer
look the other way; they should be forced to take their social
responsibility. It is an outrage that they don't comply
voluntarily,' member of Parliament Van der Staaij said during the
debate. (Webwereld, October 4, 2007).

Most child porn sites, the argument holds, are hosted in countries
that fail to take action against child pornography; Eastern Europe
and Russia are often cited as the culprits. Thus, the only way for
'proper' European countries to get rid of such sites is by filtering

In the Netherlands, UPC is the only provider who has implemented a
child porn filter. UPC subscribers who try to access a filtered site
are presented with an ominous warning on their screen: 'STOP. Your
browser tried to access a page that is being used to distribute
files that depict the sexual abuse of children. This is illegal
under article 240b of the Dutch Criminal Law.'

UPC uses a blacklist that has been compiled by the National Police
Forces (KLPD). All other providers have refused, arguing that the
list has not been reviewed and that the criteria whereby a site gets
blacklisted are unclear and not open to any kind of public scrutiny.
There is no method to check whether nasty but legal sites are
blacklisted as well, or to check that it is _only_ child porn that
is being filtered. Furthermore, filtering doesn't solve the problem;
blacklisting merely hides child porn sites, while the objective
should be to shut them down and to arrest the people maintaining
them. Only when there is a solid procedure to establish which sites
should be blacklisted and there really is no other method of
intervention - for instance, when such a site resides outside of
Europe and the US - will they consider implementing a child porn filter.

Dutch Parliament called this stance 'reprehensible'. Child
pornography is the ultimate crime; thus, it merits strong measures.
The KLPD is just as impatient with the ISPs as Parliament is. As
their spokesman Kraszweski stated: 'The ISPs have the power to do
something against child porn sites, but they keep coming up with
arguments why they shouldn't. But we're taking about child
pornography, it's almost a moral obligation to comply.' (Webwereld,
November 7, 2007).

ISPs in other European countries have implemented a child porn
filter too. In Finland, for instance. And in Finland it's also
completely unclear what is being filtered. Matti Nikki tried to find
out. He clicked his way through an endless series of sites and was
thus able to compile a list of more than one thousand blocked sites,
and published it.

His list contains 138 Dutch web sites. Uhm, _Dutch_ sites? But isn't
the Netherlands part of Europe? Can't - no, shouldn't - Finland do
more than just block them? Why don't they report these sites to the
proper Dutch authorities, so that they can take the appropriate
measures, close them down and bring their owners and maintainers to
court? Or does Finland perhaps maintain a much stricter definition
of what establishes child pornography?

This weekend, I examined the first 40 Dutch sites on the Finnish
blacklist. There was a lot of nasty stuff. Sometimes, their legal
status was difficult to assess: Dutch law states that it is illegal
to distribute pictures of children under eighteen engaged in sexual
acts or posing in a sexual way; but age is not always easy to
ascertain. However, I encountered numerous pictures of children aged
ten or twelve in lurid poses, or fucking or sucking. Obviously child
porn, obviously illegal, also under Dutch law. Almost all the sites
involved are openly hosted at two Dutch providers, Leaseweb and
Webazilla; companies that are easy to find and whom you can serve
with a legal notice to shut down a site and to hand over information
about the site's owner.

Then, I checked the same sites via a UPC connection. Part of the
sites that Finland labels as child porn sites are accessible via
UPC, which means that they are not on the Dutch blacklist.
`Evidently, the Fins and the Dutch authorities disagree
spectacularly on what qualifies as child pornography, which, in
turn, is another reason for ISPs to demand to know on the basis of
which criteria the lists are compiled. If specialised police squads
can't figure out which sites should and which sites shouldn't be
blocked, how can a provider make a responsible choice?

Using UPC, I ran into ten blocked sites. One of them did no longer
exist, one of them is hosted in the UK, four of them are in the US,
and four are hosted in the Netherlands: two at Leaseweb, and two at
Webazilla. And again, there was this quaint randomness: I could
access plenty of sites that did not differ fundamentally from those
that are being blocked. This child porn filter is a weird and
unfathomable hodgepodge.

England, the US, and the Netherlands. Again: what was the reason to
filter these sites? ' These sites usually cannot be shut down by the
police, because they are often hosted in countries that we have no
legal liaisons with.' (Webwereld, March 23, 2007) Since when are
Haarlem and Utrecht located in Russia and out of Dutch jurisdiction?

Critics of child porn filters have said it before: the authorities
should not focus on blocking such sites, but on shutting them down.
Filtering them away is window dressing, mere show. Blacklisting them
does not equal doing something about them, and it sure as hell
doesn't stop the abuse of children. It just prevents us from
acknowledging it and from understanding that it is still happening.

The actual reality turns out to be even worse. The Dutch child porn
filter contains Dutch child porn sites. To state it bluntly: the
Dutch KLPD and the department of Justice are clamouring for a law
that will oblige ISPs to make their own insufficiency invisible to
the general audience.

According to the KLPD, Leaseweb and Webazilla host child
pornography. In that case, they had better do something about it and
serve Leaseweb and Webazilla with orders to shut down these sites.
Surely, the KLPD and the Department of Justice shouldn't expect ISPs
to do their cleaning for them.

- K -

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