Censorship

Censorship in the Land of Cloudberries

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Finland has a secret list of blacklisted sites that are not accessible through Finnish servers. The blocked sites are supposed to be child pornography only, but (surprise!) the list of banned sites was recently expanded to include a critic of the government's policy who published a list of the sites, which he says includes other legal sites as well:

Now the censorship list has been appended with a site called lapsiporno.info [translates to childpornography.info] that is maintained by a Finnish Internet activist Matti Nikki. The site does not contain child pornography, but articles that criticise censorship and a list of blocked IP addresses.

Leena Romppainen, a member of the Effi board wonders: "If the site really had some illegal content, wouldn't the correct solution be to take the site down and take the site owner to the court? The site is located on a Finnish server and the name of the site owner appears visibly on the root page of the site."

Think this sort of thing only happens to crazy foreigners? Think again:

The United States had its own close encounter with a secret blacklist of ostensible porn sites in the form of a Pennsylvania statute that coerced Internet providers into blocking access to certain Web sites the government didn't like. In 2004, a federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional, noting that "there is an abundance of evidence that implementation of the Act has resulted in massive suppression of speech protected by the First Amendment."

All's well that ends well in the Pennsylvania case, but you'd think we'd know by know that secret government blacklists can get pretty messy.

Via reason contributor Declan McCullagh

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  1. I had expected a country that loves metal so much to kick ass in all other ways. I’m pretty disappointed.

  2. From the list itself it is apparent the government in Finland is blocking sites that are most likely entirely legal. A cursory check of three sites shows that don’t deal with children at all. They seem to assume that if the name includes words like “boys” or “girls” that it automatically means children. So unless these three sites were the exception the sites are legal — the participants appeared to me to be anywhere from 18 to 30 years of age — hardly children.

  3. I have plenty of problems with the Finnish government blocking that site, but c’mon! the guy was asking for it if he made his domain name “childporn.info”

    Also, the US thing is absolutely unnecessary and unbelievable.

  4. I was rather disappointed to find that spermhotel.com was just a generic porn site portal… just think of the possibilities…

    Also I’m going to chime in and say there is some very very very nasty stuff out there, but you usually have to go digging through IRC or newsgroups to run into it. For the most part the actual web is fairly clean of it by now.

    However, I wouldn’t go clicking on any of those sites listed at random. Websites do exist that are devoted to pre-pubescent “models” in skimpy clothing. It’s not technically porn but… yuck.

    (Part of one of my previous jobs involved monitoring the spam email quarantine, faith_in_humanity–)

  5. It does appear that the names, not the substance, got a lot of sites blocked. It reminds me of the apartheid government blocking the book Black Beauty merely on the basis of the name alone. They assumed it was some sort of “black power” tract and thus dangerous to the state.

    There are sites that market models who are of age as if they were underage. But it is absurd to assume that the use of words like “girls” or “boys” is referring to one’s age and not one’s gender. The US government has done stupid things of similar nature. One gay publication that used to be called Euroboy got spooked by some piece of legislation and rebranded as Euroguy. They didn’t change content since the “boys’ were never underaged to begin with. And by US standards it was tame at the time – the UK was then in a strict mood and it was published there.

    As far as I know, and I don’t go looking, but material that is clearly child porn is almost never found on commercial sites. As someone mentioned, I too heard that such material is sometimes found in user’s groups or something like that but not on the main web for the most part. And studies of the topic I’ve read said most of it is individuals trading what they produced not selling it or very old material that is recycled over and over again. The reality is that there is almost no commercial market in the stuff.

    The US tried to claim there was under Meese and couldn’t find it. So they redefined child from anyone under 16 to anyone under 18 and suddenly discovered that material previously legal was now illegal and they called that a “big increase” in the production of child porn thus justifying new regulations. Of course if they define child as anyone under 65 then they can say that 99.999% of the erotica in the world is child porn. But I shouldn’t give them the idea.

  6. Won’t someone please think of the baby whales?

  7. Did any mention a candidate by name 60 days before an election?

  8. The US tried to claim there was under Meese and couldn’t find it.

    Meese…Meese…. OH MEESE! Took me a while. Man, I forgot those days. That was when liberals were for the first amendment. Man, how times have changed.

  9. Guy going by the nick Maraz did a closer analysis of the list.

    http://maraz.kapsi.fi/sisalto-en.html

    Basically the people who maintain this list screwed up big time. It’s been guessed that the reason that so many non-childporn sites appear on the list is due to them wanting to make the censorship appear more effective then it is. Which is laughable, as the censoring is done by the most retarded way possible: by forging ISP’s DNS data, trivial to bypass simply by using a DNS that’s not doing this idiocy.

  10. Also, the law that mandates the censorship only applies to sites outside Europe/US, ie. in countries where telling local law enforcement that someone has a child porn site up would have no effect.

    Also, unsurprisingly, the law was celebrated by various groups as a precedent for using similar techniques for censorship and control for other issues. Online poker, for one. The finnish gambling monopoly and its protectors in the administration are working really hard to come up with a way to ban online poker without breaching EU law and trade commitments.

    All in all, a vivid example of how ‘for teh children’ argumentation is used for all kinds of bullshit.

  11. I work for an ISP, and the ACLs that enforced the Pennsylvania laws were a joke. Even if it hadn’t been unconstitutional, it was useless.

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