A seemingly never ending series of absurd statements from officials continued yesterday, as Detective Chief Inspector Lars Henriksson from the National Bureau of Investigation commented the ongoing debate over Internet censorship in Finland. He threatened maintainers of mirrors of the wrongfully censored anti-censorship site lapsiporno.info (mirror) with possible legal actions. The censorship is made possible by a poorly prepared law encouraging ISPs to block access to sites listed as child pornography in a secret document maintained by the Police.
The Finnish Police Forces feel that the site and its mirrors are spreading child pornography by maintaining a list of known blocked sites. Still, the Police have failed to follow normal investigative procedures to shut down lapsiporno.info and confiscate the hardware: there seem to be strong doubts over the illegality of the site. That’s no surprise, most blocked sites on this list is legal porn hosted in the EU and USA.
Tietokone, a Finnish IT magazine, quotes Detective Chief Inspector Henriksson (English translation by yours truly):
“Those who maintain this kind of pages [mirrors of lapsiporno.info] should now consider, and ask a legal adviser, what a wise decision would be.”
“The matter can be discussed in a more sensible manner”
“We’ll take one step at a time. everything can’t be done at once. It remains to be seen what’s ahead.”
Why is this experienced and respected(?) member of the Finnish law enforcement recommending maintainers of lapsiporno.info mirrors to to seek legal counseling? Why are ISPs blocking a site when the originating server could be removed easily, if there were any legal grounds for doing so? And what part of publicly speaking against this sort of behavior is not perfectly sensible?
As I reported yesterday, the lack of any legal arguments for removal didn’t help a student whose access to IT systems necessary for him to perform his studies was suspended due to him keeping a mirror of lapsiporno.info on his personal web space. TKK, the university where this happened, apparently supports censorship.
Additionally, Chief Inspector Lars Henriksson said in a phone conversation with an activist recorded last week, that Google shouldn’t be blocked even if it links to sites blocked as “child porn” by the Police. I’ve translated a part of the conversation:
Caller: “Why hasn’t Google been censored, these links are there, aren’t they?”
Chief Inspector Henriksson: “Well, it’s not a site, it’s a browser.”
Caller: “Then, what difference is there from a www-technical standpoint?”
Chief Inspector Henriksson: “Err, if a site works like a portal to child porn sites, these blocking measures can be applied, according to this law.”
In addition to not being familiar with very basic IT terminology, at least not when confronted over the phone, Henriksson doesn’t understand that both Google’s search results and the list on lapsiporno.info are the output of programs crawling the web (mirror). Where and how should the inappropriateness of the rules be discussed, if not by exposing the flawed blocking practices on a website?
The likes of Henriksson, undoubtedly hardened by dealing with hideous products of child pornography creators, should be able to grasp reasonable technical arguments, even in debates with topics like child porn. Misguided censorship operations are slimy things to get into, especially when the people in power and the electorate lack the knowledge to consider the implications of any suggested solution. Concerns raised by Finnish activists and recent statements from certain freedom hating interest groups suggest that censorship may be expanding soon: even the outside world has noticed this.
Censorship at the gates of service providers, using simple domain name server amputation or expensive proxy server systems that the people will have to pay for as customers or tax payers, is the same thing as what China and Saudi-Arabia among others are doing to “protect” their citizens. Confusing such authoritarian nonsense with valid actions against those who keep child porn on their servers is very dishonest.
If your geographic location allows you to do so, please join the demonstration against Internet censorship in Finland next Tuesday (2008-03-04) in Helsinki. For more info, see the website of the event.
Thomas Nybergh | thomas [ät] nybergh.net