Ferry Boender

Programmer, DevOpper, Open Source enthusiast.


Dutch government wants to censor the Internet

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Dutch minister of Justice, Hirsch Ballin, is being pressured by dutch christian and labour parties to force Dutch ISP’s to start censoring the Internet:

A translation of the dutch NU.nl article:

AMSTERDAM – The NOS [Dutch Broadcasting Institute] on friday reports that a majority of the Dutch parlement have demanded that internet providers be forced to block child pornograpy.

Currently, providers have the freedom to cooperate with blocking activities, but they are not required to. The Korps Landelijke Politiediensten [red; Dutch National Police Corps] keeps a list of websites that spread child pornography, which ISPs can use to filter. The UPC cablecompany is the only one currently using the list.

The CDA [red; Christian Democrats], the ChristenUnie and the PvdA [red; labour party] parties have demanded that minister Hirsch Ballin forces ISP to start blockin child pornorgraphy, according to the NOS. The topic has been a long-running point of discussion between Hirsch Ballin and Internet providers.

First off, I’d like to explain that I am NOT AT ALL for child pornography or anything of the sorts. That said, censorship is never the solution to a problem. If you’re thinking ‘But what about..’, NO! Censorship is never, ever the solution to a problem.

Now, who is this blocking of child pornography supposed to help (or stop)? There are only three possible answers: The children, the people trying to get their hands on child pornography or the people who accidentally stumble upon child pornography. Does this solution really help any of these parties? No. Children featured in child pornography are already hurt, so it doesn’t help them. Paedophiles looking for child pornography aren’t going to be stopped by this blocking. They’ll simply use any of the existing routing networks such as Tor, which don’t allow blocking, or they’ll find some proxy in a foreign country. The only party it might help are people not actively looking for child pornography but who see it by accident. But come on, have you ever encountered child pornography by accident?

A big problem with this kind of blocking is that it is about fighting symptoms instead of causes. We shouldn’t be blocking this content; we should be prosecuting the people hosting it and those that are actively looking for it. By blocking child pornography you run the risk of hiding the actual problem. It appears as if something is actively being done about child pornography, but the problem is still there; except now it’s hidden from the public’s view. And paedophlies? Where will they go for their needs? Underground, perhaps, making them harder to trace? Or will they simply create their own supply, harming even more children in the progress?

Another problem is that once you start censoring, where do you stop? Right now, the Dutch government is planning on blocking child pornography, terrorist sites and sites with content possibly useful to terrorists (bomb-making manuals, etc). Next up? Who knows? Sites presenting views our government doesn’t agree on (anti-religion, discriminating sites, right-wing, left-wing)? Where does it stop? As we all should know, when looking at history, it won’t stop anywhere. The entry barrier to censoring is high, but after that it’s just like dancing: Getting on the dance floor and making the first step is hard, but after that, all bets are off.

And something that hasn’t been discussed by our government is: Who monitors the monitors? Right now, there are no plans for actually making anybody accountable for what gets on the censoring list and what doesn’t. Smells ripe for abuse to me.

So we’re looking at a system that won’t actually help anybody. A system which, in fact, will do more harm than it’ll do good. A system that’s open to abuse and can only lead to an uncontrollable, unmonitored system.

Sounds like another good idea by our government to ‘think of the children!!’.

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