Finland Censoring Sites Police Don't Like, Falsely Claiming They Contain Child Porn

from the blocked! dept

Back in 2002, we wrote about how the Australian government was forcing ISPs to block sites that it claimed displayed child pornography. Last year, the government wanted to allow Australian police to add to the blocklist. The problem was that there was no review whatsoever -- and no way to make sure the sites being blocked actually were questionable, rather than just sites the police didn't like. When we raised this question back in 2002, someone responsible for the filters in Australia argued with us in the comments that we were wrong to question the policy and insisting that, even though there was no way to determine what was being banned, we should just trust those in charge of the filters that it was for our own good. Of course, when a government representative (or a representative of a company doing the government's will) says "just trust us," you know you should be worried.

To prove that point, take a look at what's happening in Finland, where a very similar law is in place, specifically designed to have ISPs block child pornography. There's just one little problem. An investigation into what's being blocked shows that many of the sites on the list appear to contain no pornography at all (child or otherwise). However, among the sites blocked is an anti-censorship site that argues against Finland's policies. There are also the website for a doll company and some computer help forums. The research also showed that there are plenty of "adult oriented" sites, but that most of them appear to be perfectly legal and have nothing to do with child pornography at all. However, since the list isn't public and there's no way to know what's on the list (other than thanks to researchers like those who brought this to light) it's tough for anyone to know if the government is actually abiding by the law. Once again, it looks like you shouldn't "just trust" the government when it claims it's protecting you.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    Improbus, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 8:56am

    Cops

    This just goes to prove that cops are unmitigated bastards no matter what country you hail from.

     

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    matt, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    wasn't there a country that did this before?

    I seem to recall a country that did something like this back in 01 or 02....and they decided not to do it because of false positives. Was that also finaland?

     

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    Yottabyte, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    That's democracy

    First the file-sharing laws, now this... talk about "rule of the people"... complete crap. Makes Pakistan's military regime seem quite attractive.

     

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    The Original Omaha Pete, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:11am

    Yottabyte's desire to live under Pakistani rule.

    Clearly you've never lived in Pakistan.

     

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    Mike C., Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    Missed detail...

    I had caught this on Slashdot earlier and you missed one VERY important detail. The Finnish regulation specifically states that the block is supposed to be for FOREIGN sites - those located outside of Finland. Lapsiporno.info (the site in question) is located in Finland.

    While the blocking of an activist site is a problem to begin with, I find it more appalling that they are breaking the law just to do so. Not that he does, but even if his site did indeed contain child pornography, they should be prosecuting him - not just blocking him.

     

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    Botch the Crab, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:01am

    Inevitable

    Power is always abused, especially unchecked power (that is, without oversight). That this is still open to debate is remarkable.

     

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    Anonymous, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:05am

    Nothings changed.

    We went through these battles in the 90's. Even the very very best of the Censorware programs can do nothing more except block what they knew about yesterday. It doesn't touch the 99% they don't know about, and it doesn't touched what's being changed. As for getting blocks wrong that's going on since the very beginning as well. (14,000+ Engineering sites at one Uni were blocked after someone put up a buried bait page.. Nothing has changed) Breaking their own rules, their own guidelines ditto..

    It all boils down to 'I know better than you'.. Unfortunately they don't.

     

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    James, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:08am

    Iran/China, et al.

    They do this same sort of thing in retarded, backward-ruled countries all over the world... surely, the gov't knows what is better for you than YOU do.

     

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    bobbknight, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:14am

    Bureaucrats

    Bureaucrats are the ones who make the lists from input via law enforcement, but it was the politicians who created the law in the first place.

     

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    MadJo, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    ...Bad reporting...

    Actually this is just bad reporting.
    Glancing through the list (http://lapsiporno.info/suodatuslista/?lang=en) I can only find 1 (one) instance of a false positive. And that's the site itself. (lapsiporno.info)

    While I am firmly opposed to censorship, it's none of the governments business to block sites, it's more important to capture the badguys that make/distribute childporn. (but if they keep on doing it, let's at least have some form of recourse in case someone's site becomes a false positive.)
    While I'm firmly against all that, I'm also against alarmists reporting.
    I know Techdirt is only reporting what other sites are reporting (and all those other sites are wrong as well), but I think that's irresponsible.
    A quick glance at the list would already raise some flags around the truth that other sites claim to report on. Almost all (bar one) were at least sites with very racy names, now I haven't done any in-depth research on all of those links, but a site named like 'mypussyhot' does sound rather pornographic.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:58am

      Re: ...Bad reporting...

      But the law states that foreign CHILD PORN sites are blocked. Just because a site has a racy URL does not mean it contains child porn.

       

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      DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 12:45pm

      Re: ...Bad reporting...

      "Actually this is just bad reporting."

      I would say that the only misleading part of the article is the use of the phrase many of the sites on the list appear to contain no pornography at all. Most of the sites on the list do appear to be pornographic, with a few exceptions.

      The accusation is not that the sites contain porn, but that they contain child pornography. Obviously the majority of the list is composed of pornographic sites, but unless you've gone through and visited each site, how can you claim there is only one false-positive? You have apparently misunderstood the article if you are assuming the list is supposed to ban pornographic material.

      While I am firmly opposed to censorship, it's none of the governments business to block sites, it's more important to capture the badguys that make/distribute childporn.

      If I'm reading this correctly, you're saying it's ok for the government to block sites it doesn't like as long as they catch a few that had childporn on them?

       

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        MadJo, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 3:50pm

        Re: Re: ...Bad reporting...

        While I am firmly opposed to censorship, it's none of the governments business to block sites, it's more important to capture the badguys that make/distribute childporn. If I'm reading this correctly, you're saying it's ok for the government to block sites it doesn't like as long as they catch a few that had childporn on them?
        What part of "It's none of the governments business to block sites" translate to that, exactly?

         

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          DanC, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 5:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: ...Bad reporting...

          What part of "It's none of the governments business to block sites" translate to that, exactly?

          Hence the "If I'm reading this correctly" portion of my post. I allowed for the possibility of misunderstanding your statement, because as written it isn't a proper sentence, and it wasn't clear to me what you were trying to say. Since I apparently misinterpreted that portion of your post, anything directly following the "reading this correctly" part of my response would be null and void.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 2:39pm

      Re: ...Bad reporting...

      Actually this is just bad reporting.
      Glancing through the list (http://lapsiporno.info/suodatuslista/?lang=en) I can only find 1 (one) instance of a false positive. And that's the site itself. (lapsiporno.info)


      So you're claiming that you're familiar with all the sites on that list and know that they all (except one) contain child porn? You're full of shit.

       

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        MadJo (profile), Feb 20th, 2008 @ 1:38am

        Re: Re: ...Bad reporting...

        That is most definitely NOT what I was saying!

        I talked about glancing through the list (mostly to see names) FFS, and regarded the list more as a Pornography filter rather than just child pornography.

        You people keep reading things into my message that I definitely NOT was saying. I f-ing hate the English language now. I'll stick to Dutch the next time.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 3:02am

          Re: Re: Re: ...Bad reporting...

          The list is a list of supposed child porn sites. Every site on that list that isn't a child porn site is a false positive and you said there was only one. I'm sorry if that's not what you meant, but that's what you said.

           

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    Mike (Different Mike), Feb 19th, 2008 @ 12:24pm

    Re: ...Bad Reporting

    So your comment on bad reporting was itself bad reporting because you did not actually check the facts. Plus the fact that pornography sites are not supposed to be banned, just Child Porn sites. So "mypussyhot" should not be banned unless it is showing underage people.

     

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    Overcast, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 12:50pm

    When we raised this question back in 2002, someone responsible for the filters in Australia argued with us in the comments that we were wrong to question the policy and insisting that, even though there was no way to determine what was being banned, we should just trust those in charge of the filters that it was for our own good.

    Then - why don't they follow their own advice and 'Trust citizens not to go to those pages'? Or are the politicians and law enforcement 'more honest' than the average citizen?

    And while they are at it - why don't they just 'Trust citizens' to pay their taxes willingly? If that sounds funny - it's no different than 'trust politicians' to manage the massive income from taxation in a responsible way. After all - I'd really rather trust someone who DOES NOT base their entire career on the desire to control others. Just the fact that someone is a politician, should make a person cynical from the very start.

     

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    Marika, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:25pm

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

    This site has an analysis of the list of censored sites in English with the results being that at least 90 % of the sites are legal and only 9 sites (less than 1 %) illegal.

    It wasn't mentioned in the article that the owner of the censored activist site is also being called for questioning by the police, for aiding in the distribution of child pornography by linking to the censored websites.

    This whole thing is totally ridiculous and frustrating but as a Finnish person I'm really glad this whole debacle happened so soon after the censorship system being implemented. Until now mainstream Finnish press hasn't been interested in the subject at all.

     

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    Wankenheimer, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:39pm

    Damned paternalist.

    The most important part of government is the balance of power. With no checks or balances, government will minutely manage every part of our lives. Their motto is 'government of the people by the bureaucrats for the special interest.

     

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    willie korpivaara, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:50pm

    Ashamed to be a Finn now!

    I cannot believe the Finnish gov't is emulating their next door neighbor Russia in censoring the internet! If the sites are legit in Finland--and--they have proof of child pornography---show them and release the list to the local media outlets! But until I see or read of any changes online here---I am ashamed to be both a Finn AND a USA citizen (because of all the bullshit and lies from the Bush administration! But do NOT censor a watchdog site--that's like shooting your foot off!

     

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    John, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 1:52pm

    Arrest the guy

    If the government is so worried about child porn websites, why not arrest the people running the sites? Then, seize their computers and servers as evidence. This would take down the site faster than trying to create filters.

    Ah, yes, but the arrest of one person (or a few people) doesn't have quite the same impact as a government-mandated filter to block anything they don't like, I mean, anything with "child porn".

     

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    Yosi, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:18pm

    Excellent example of "let's protect the children". This should serve as an example for lawmakers in _some_ countries.

     

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    Charles H. Green, Mar 3rd, 2008 @ 2:40pm

    Congratulations on inclusion in Carnival of Trust

    Congratulations on the inclusion of this post in the Carnival of Trust
    ( http://trustedadvisor.com/carnivalofTrust/
    hosted this month by Duncan Bucknell's IPThinkTank blog
    http://duncanbucknell.com/blog/288/The-March-2008-Carnival-of-Trust

    It really is a classic, isn't it? The best way to guarantee that someone will not trust you is to say--trust me.

    It's particularly absurd when the one saying "trust me" is in a position to exert power over the other. We make a serious exclusion to this cynical perspective in the case of kids--but even then, they can't always trust their parents.

    More relevantly, it's amazing how often we find ad and PR agencies saying "trust me," governments, elected officials, corporate leaders, religious leaders, sports leaders. Trust me--it'll all be OK.

    In fact, the tendency to doubt gets twisted by these people- into some accusation of lack of faith--as if to question why omeone in a position of unchecked power is somehow an act of treason.

    Anyway, congrats on the selection, and thanks for the great post.

     

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    BabyGurl101, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 10:51am

    Child Porn..

    Yes about 27% of children from my research get raped or have been reported on news about child pornography...Why is this?? People ask...But none of us know why this is really..Unfortunatly when children have been exposed to all this porn then they are scared for life..No one can unscar them of this... Sincerly BabyGurl101

     

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    A Finn, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 2:55am

    More about Finland

    If you read this http://zendevils.blogspot.com/2006/08/982006-what-i-dont-like-in-finland.html you won't have to wonder anymore why Finland does what it does. Maybe next they will open old concentration camps in the East Karelia for dissidents.

     

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