By Joel Yliluoma, March 4th, 2008
Today, 4th March 2008, there was a
demonstration against Internet censorship
in Helsinki, Finland.
The protesters complained about the censorship implemented by the police,
as it does absolutely nothing to help the children victims who are
instead being used as dubious political levers.
Table of contents [expand all
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Problems with the current censorship
Other problems include:
- The censorship is in violation of the constitutional law of Finland (section 12).
- The censorship "flushes the child with the dish water", i.e. for every alleged child porn page it blocks thousands of completely unrelated pages and sites happening to share the same DNS address.
- Children are not likely to stumble across child pornography. Adult pornography is prevalent, but this law does not address that.
- The censorship system does not stop those who actually intend to watch child pornography. It is trivial to circumvent.
- The censorship does not help the actual children who are being used by porn industry. It only addresses the child audience who are not likely to stumble upon those pictures anyway, and are not in need of "protection" by censorship.
- Sites are being blocked without chance of being heard and tried. No jury, no trial.
- No means are provided to inform site authors that their site is being blocked.
- No means are provided to let a site be unblocked.
- If you are wrongly blocked and you lose revenue / reputation because of that, no compensation whatsoever is given when/if you are unblocked. You may be publicly marked as a child pornography distributor, even if you are completely innocent, and nobody is going to apologize to you.
- Real child pornography distributors (i.e. criminals) are not affected either; they switch & register new domains all the time, and such a filter cannot keep up to date.
- Not to mention that web is not the only media in Internet used to transfer illegal material. But unfortunately, for the law makers, web = Microsoft Internet Explorer. And for the police, "Google is a browser, not a site". (Actual quote). This reflects the level of their understanding of the issues they are trying to change.
- Once censorship exists, different agencies are eager to lobby the use of the censorship for their own purposes. For example, music industries would want The Pirate Bay censored. Scientologists would want critics of Scientology to be censored. Some members of Parliament want Internet Poker sites to be censored. And so on. This method is not compatible with the concept of
unconditional freedom of communication guaranteed by the Finnish constitution.
- The applier of the censorship, NBI, has created their own interpretations of the law, in violation to the law's content and spirit, and obviously without understanding of the technology and the implications.
- The censorship list is secret, and maintained by an unnamed official. As such, nobody can know what they're censoring, and nobody can verify whether they're staying within legal limits. (Well, we can, thanks to technology and clever activists; not thanks to the law. And we now know that they're not staying within legal limits.)
Why do I care?
Because especially points 2, 6, 8, 9 and 12 are in strong
to my sense of justice. I am an author at the Internet
(as in, I create copyrighted material such as this article),
and as such, I can strongly relate to people who are in similar positions: people
whose fundamental rights are threatened by this dysfunctional system.
I'll elaborate on these particular points.
- 2. If my pages are published on a shared server, and someone on that server happens to host a forum (for discussion about some topic), and someone (anyone, really) posts a link to an illegal picture on that forum, on that board, the Police may censor the entire server, including my pages. Visitors accessing my site would receive a message that they attempted to access a page that contains child pornography.
- 6—8. If I find my site wrongly blocked as explained above, there is nothing I can do. That would be injustice.
- 9. If my site is wrongly blocked, people are informed that my site contains child pornography. Which it most certainly does not. It would damage my reputation, possibly irrepairably. That is nothing but injustice.
- 12. I am a computer programmer. Sometimes I program tools that address some particular need. Sometimes there may be people who think that my need is in contradiction with their ambitions. They might want my product to be censored. For example, if I program a tool to retrieve data from a Windows Vista™ system whose password has been lost, some agency might think my tool can be used for cracking systems, and they might want it censored. Or, I might write a tool to retrieve video from a copy-protected digital recording because I want to postprocess it, and the media industry would want it censored because it circumvents a copy protection. In such cases, I'd feel being a victim of injustice.
- Or if I am searching for information about some controversary topic (say, reports of crimes done by Islamic immigrants), and I find the page censored, this would make me suspicious of the government's motives. China is doing that, and in my opinion, that is wrong. I definitely do not want that to happen in Finland.
- Because of these reasons, I am opposed to all censorship in general. "Fixing" the child pornography filter to target specific pages instead of whole servers will not make it acceptable. It is a slippery slope, and current trends in the Parliament show that the danger of its applications being extended is real.
What about the children?
The censorship system does nothing
to help the children.
It merely attempts to hide the fact that children are abused.
Closing your eyes from a crime does not remove the crime.
To help the children victims, the police officials should concentrate their
efforts to cooperate with police officials in those countries where the actual
children are being abused.
- Locate sites that publish child pornography.
- Track down the administrators of those sites.
- Trace the trail to the actual perpetrators who are abusing the children, and press charges.
- If the police officials in that country are corrupted and are ignoring the issue, raise media pressure by making the issue internationally public to force the corrupted country to take action. Indeed, you can not fix issues by sweeping them under the carpet, which is what censorship does. You must put them into spotlight.
If any of these steps goes out of the range of local juristiction, pass
the work to the officials in that country where they can
For example, if the site is hosted in the USA,
contact the FBI
and tell them the address.
What about the children who use Internet?
Children are not likely to stumble upon child pornography
(considering that CP tends to be somewhat underground to hide from law enforcement),
and are thus not in need of "protection" from pictures by censorship.
Adult pornography is prevalent (it is advertised in many dubious ways),
but that's not what this censorship system is about.
And since when is it up to technology to teach children what
is right and what is wrong? Is that not the parents' job?
In the same manner as parents should control what the children can watch
from TV and what they can not, they should also do about Internet.
What about the pædophiles?
The censorship system does not block access by anyone
determined to find out what the site contains. It can be easily circumvented
As explained by Matti Nikki
in Internet is impossible.
There are a myriad of different ways to transmit information, and a majority of them
are completely unknown to the people who design these blocking systems. For the rest,
it is not practical to try blocking them.
In any case, the current criminal law in Finland already prohibits
- the possessionship of child pornography, and
- the production of child pornography, regardless of whether it is recorded, published or not.
These together are enough to outlaw any activity related
to the handling of child pornography.
No legislation can make illegal more illegal.
What is the talk about political leverage?
The term child pornography
has gained strong power in the media.
After all, the majority of voters are also parents.
Simply put, if your arguments follow the formula "_
_ because child pornography",
the media, and the mass, will support you, no matter how bogus your claim is.
The parliament utilized this aspect
the next election
to ensure their
good public image – that they are actually doing something important.
However, because using the term child pornography is an efficient way to justify
some action, it conversely follows that objecting to
that action flags you publicly
as a supporter of child pornography
, or a pædophile
. Nobody wants to have
that kind of image.
Or as representative Jyrki Kasvi puts it
the half-life of the popularity
[of a politician who objects to a law advocated with child pornography]
is really short
So it is really easy to manipulate people towards some goal by using child pornography
as a leverage.
The goal of the leverage, was to improve the face of the Parliament in
the eyes of the population.
But there was another goal, as well: censorship is a powerful tool, and a powerful
weapon. There are many parties who would enjoy being able to control such a weapon.
In particular, the media industry
). They have been lobbying for a long
time, pushing the Parliament to create legislation that supports their own goals better,
prohibition of communication of means to circumvent copy protection
of the Constitution of Finland). It does not take much to guess that their next goal
would be to censor
foreign (and native) sites that
help spreading copyrighted material for free.
Such as The Pirate Bay
In short, children, who were supposed to be helped, were merely used as political
leverage to support completely unrelated goals that do absolutely nothing to help
What about their arguments?
Most of the their arguments are based on fallacies: appeal to authority,
appeal to tradition, appeal to fear, appeal to emotion, etc.
But Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, etc. too!
Finland is Finland. Yes, our Parliament has a trend of copying
legislation from other countries, but just because idiots are idiots,
doesn't mean we should be too. (No offense meant to our neighbours!)
We have pointed out flaws and serious problems with the censorship,
and referring to other countries will not invalidate those problems.
It was the previous Parliament, not us!
Who cares? Hurry up, remove it.
But they accepted it unanimously!
That's because coming forth and objecting to a law advocated with child pornography
would have been a political suicide. As already explained on this page, there
are serious problems with this system and nothing aside from dismantling it
alltogether will fix it.
But think of the children!
We're already improving it, and the next one will target subpages instead of the whole domain!
The whole censorship system should be dismantled. It was a bad idea from the beginning.
Changing it to be more precise will not fix the
remainder of its inherent problems, listed above
But by blocking the access to CP we attack the profit chain of CP, and thus, CP will cease to exist as it's no longer profitable!
No you don't. Your censorship leaks like mad, and there's nothing
you can do to fix it (as explained above
except from dismantling it alltogether.
(And, some, perhaps most, people do not do it for profit.
The word "philia" (φιλία) in "pedophilia
comes from the fact that they love it.)
But isn't something better than nothing?!
Not when that
does more harm than it does good, especially
as the amount of
it does is indistinguishable from zero.
And did you forget, the system is in violation of the Constitutional law of Finland?
And don't even think of changing the Constitution.
Then it would begin to sound like Orwell's 1984
Freedom of speech does not protect child pornography!
Although the Constitution guarantees the right to communication without
prior prevention by anyone, it is indeed correct to stipulate that such
freedom does not extend to performing crimes: distributing child
pornography is prohibited by
the crime law
chapter 17, section 18.
The filter, however, censors many webpages that have nothing to do with
child pornography, which is
a violation of freedom of speech.
For example, Matti Nikki's
website that criticises the censorship system
was censored in direct violation of the Constitutional law.
That site does not contain or distribute child pornography.