Digital Civil Rights in Europe

Article published in EDRi-gram 7.1

While some European countries block the illegal content (mostly child pornography websites), other are considering implementing a similar measure through a hidden list. However the past month has shown, one more time if necessary, that usually the list of any blocked content will leak and thus the allegedly blocked content will become widely available.

Belgium is one of the new countries considering such a list. The Minister of Enterprise and Administrative Reform, Vincent Van Quickenborne, want to ban child pornography on the Internet through a protocol between ISPs and the Government. The protocol might extend to other illegal sites, such as hate and racism websites or Internet fraud.

The federal police special division Federal Computer Crime Unit (FCCU) confirms that it detects yearly 800 – 1000 child pornography websites hosted in foreign countries and the court procedure to block those sites is rarely used since it is too burdensome.

The Flemish League for Human Rights (Liga voor Mensenrechten) has criticized the project underlining that ” the decision to block websites must remain under exclusive authority of the judicial branch. It is unacceptable that the police gets a wild card to block certain websites at will.”

The legal framework already exists in Belgium, but Minister Van Quickenborne wants a more flexible mechanism that can be used more quickly to effectively block websites. It seems that the police will get the authority to compose the blacklists of to be blocked websites, without any legal safeguards or external oversight mechanisms. The fact that FCCU admits right away that this practice should also be applicable in other cases, makes the whole practice very worrisome.

The practice of the hidden lists of illegal websites is not new. But in the past month, we’ve seen at least 3 major blacklists become public, thus becoming irrelevant.

The blacklist operated by the Danish child pornography filtering system (3863 blocked URLs) leaked on 23 December 2008 and is available in full online.

Only a few days before the Thailand’s blacklist made by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology that block access to websites deemed unsuitable for the Thai people become available on the Internet. (1203 websites). The list included hundreds of YouTube videos (including Hillary Clinton’s campaign videos) as well as blogs, cartoons, Charlie Chaplin videos and an article in the Economist magazine banned for criticising the Thai king.

In the same period Wikileaks published the Finnish Internet censorship list. The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation has requested executive assistance from United States, but it is not known what precisely has been requested – whether the concern is only removing the list or whether they are trying to find out who leaked it. The list still includes the critical Finnish anti-censorship site

Government wants to eliminate sites with child pornography (only in Flemish, 12.01.2009)…

The government wants to block paedophiliac websites (only in French, 12.01.2009)…

Flemish Human Rights League – Minister Van Quickenborne want flexible system for blocking websites.A form of censorship? (12.01.2008)

List of banned websites in Thailand and Denmark leaked online (23.12.2008),28348,24840506-5014239,…

List of Child Porn Sites Leaked to Public (13.01.2009)…

EDRi-gram: ENDitorial: Finnish web censorship (27.02.2008)

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  1. A few moments ago, I read an article about various sites being shut down for violations from copyright infringement to child pornography.

    The article made it sound as though American’s were reaching out their fingers being the “World’s Police” once more as they manipulate other countries into taking action against companies and organizations who thrive on illegal activity.

    I am sick of hearing about “Americans” being given credit as though they are the only ones who desire the right thing to be done. America doesn’t set the bar on righteousness or justice. There are many good & bad things about Ameria, just like every country with a flag.

    As moral beings, we must all strive to stop the abuse of children.

    In trying to find a complete list of illegal activities that cause companies to be shut down, I came across the following website:

    It appears the governments of many countries have now begun to crackdown on anti-children and anti-family content being streamed from within.

    Due to the publication of certain “Websites Lists”, the public have begun to voice disgust over such controversial topics as Child Pornography, Hate Crimes, and Crimes Against Women.

    Part of the article I read spoke of a website being shut down because of publicising negative comments spoken against the Thai King. There will always be individuals who abuse the power & authority given them for other means. We must stay the course, keeping our eye on the ultimate goal of stopping the abusers of children for this is the greater good.

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