Danish Police Accidentally Censor Over 8,000 Sites As Child Porn... Including Facebook & Google

from the censorship-is-bad,-mmmkay? dept

Reminiscent of the mooo.com screwup in the US, where Homeland Security's ICE division "accidentally" seized 84,000 sites and plastered them over with a warning graphic about how they'd been seized by the US government for child porn, the Danish police similarly "accidentally" had 8,000 legitimate sites declared as child porn sites that needed to be blocked. Among the sites listed? Google and Facebook. Visitors to those sites, from ISP Siminn were greeted with the following message (translated, of course):
The National High Tech Crime Center of the Danish National Police [NITEC], who assist in investigations into crime on the internet, has informed Siminn Denmark A/S, that the internet page which your browser has tried to get in contact with may contain material which could be regarded as child pornography...

Upon the request of The National High Tech Crime Center of the Danish National Police, Siminn Denmark A/S has blocked the access to the internet page.
And people wonder why so many people around the world were so concerned about the threat of something like SOPA -- which would make DNS blocking at the ISP level a lot more common.

So how did this "accident" happen?
According to NITEC chief Johnny Lundberg, it began when an employee at the police center decided to move from his own computer to that of a colleague.

“He sat down and was about to make an investigation, and in doing so he placed a list of legitimate sites in the wrong folder,” Lundberg explained. “Before becoming aware of the error, two ISPs retrieved the list of sites.”
It would seem that there's a problem in this process. The fact that just one employee can change the list seems wide open to abuse. And the fact that the list seems somewhat automated beyond that is even more problematic. You know what would solve this problem? A little thing called due process. What a concept.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:28am

    Due Process...

    What is this thing called...

    Due Process?

    I know that I've heard it before...

    You know, back before the Terrorists won and made the American people super paranoid and allowed the government to eat away at freedoms in the name of security...

    Ah, must be something fictional.

    After all, something like that would almost allow people to have a fair chance, and you know that would never happen.

    "Those who give up essential freedoms and liberties for the sake of temporary security deserve neither." - Benjamin Franklin

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:37am

      Re: Due Process...

      I assure you, due process was not a fiction!

      It was a historical anachronism--a wonderful concept which died out along with pastoral agrarian societies, enlightened philosophical cultures, and pastel cheeses.

      Some things were simply never meant to survive in the harsh, cruel world which we live in.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    BuckRogers1965 (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:40am

    Isn't accusing someone of child porn slander?

    Or is it libel? I never can figure out which is which.

    Regardless, it is bad to accuse people of something so heinous which they did not do and block access to their business until they can prove that they are innocent.

    The fact that a single police officer could accidentally block sites as legitimate as Google or Facebook without any due process tells me that the little guy could be screwed without any recourse at the whim of any number of police officers.

    Imagine being an individual or small business trying to get your web site back on line after being accused of being a child pornographer by the national police. This could lead to people committing suicide with the politically correct climate in full force now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:41am

    It is abundantly clear that they can't even use the current system responsibly; that alone would be enough reason not to implement more censorship tools. It's like seeing a kid fall of his bicycle three times in a row, and yet succumb to his crying pleas for a motorcycle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Emil, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:47am

    Note

    As people noted on a Danish tech news site that also reported this .. incident .. what were the employee doing with a list of >8000 presumably legit sites? That seems very suspicious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      WysiWyg (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:28am

      Re: Note

      This was my first thought too. Were they making some sort of white-list? And why?

      The conspiracy-lover in me starts to wonder if they are preparing for a law that forces ISPs to censor everything that isn't white-listed.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    "Danish Police Accidentally Censor Over 8,000 Sites As Child Porn... Including Facebook & Google"

    Or

    "Danish Police Officer Trolls 8,000 Sites In One Single Move"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mason Wheeler, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:08am

    Re: Note

    what were the employee doing with a list of >8000 presumably legit sites? That seems very suspicious.


    One good thing to use it for would be a whitelist. Like, "this is a set of sites that are legitimate and not responsible for external content that people can reach through them, so don't take them down." Oops!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    How about you get the story right?

    Human error, it happens. The guy made a mistake, and the mistake was rapidly fixed. It happens.

    You don't think so? Ask your wonderful new hosting company why your site is either unreachable or has no stories about 10% of the time. Oh noes! They need to go to jail or something, they are clearly making errors!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:14am

      Re: Human Error

      When human error puts unwanted pickles on your hamburger, it's not exactly a big deal.

      When human error threatens the livelihood of tens of thousands of people--then it's a big deal.

      See, it's not that hard to think logically about this stuff. Try it some time.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      silverscarcat (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      Here's the thing tho...

      It should NOT have happened in the FIRST place!

      The simple fact that "human error" can take down 8000 LEGITIMATE sites means that the system is screwed up horribly.

      If they can do that under existing laws...

      Tell me WHY we need new ones.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      How are you missing the fact that your own retarded analogy fails due to this instance being roughly 8000x more severe?

      It would be like saying stabbing murders are okay, because you allow your doctor to give you injections....

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 11:12am

        Re: Re:

        Retarded? How many websites are there? What is the error rate? I have a feeling your doctor would wish for that success rate.

        It's too bad that it happened, but it's not the end of the world, especially because only a small number of ISPs picked it up, and the error was reversed quickly.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Said doctor would have killed 8000 patients due to "Human error".

          Retarded analogy.

          0/10 - failtroll.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Richard (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:31am

      Re:

      Human error, it happens. The guy made a mistake, and the mistake was rapidly fixed. It happens.
      Way to miss the point.

      Yes human error happens - and so when anything important is at stake then systems should be in place to make sure this kind of accident doesn't get through the system and into the outside world unchecked. This is not a matter of legal due process - this is a matter of basic quality control procedures - like every organisation is supposed to have

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:32am

      Re:

      One person made a mistake that labelled 8,000 sites (including Google and Facebook) as being seized by the government over having child pornography.

      You don't see how this was actually a pretty big deal?

      If Techdirt was unreachable due to the mistake of it's hosting company, that'd be one thing. It's understandable that such things do on occasion happen. While an inconvenience, it's nothing to get in too big of a tizzy over.

      But for one man to have the power to censor that many sites, while putting them in the awkward position of having to later explain that "Hey, it was an accident caused by one government worker, we DO NOT host or condone child porn on our sites", that's a pretty ridiculous amount of power to let one worker have. Even if accidental, it shouldn't be that easy to allow to happen. Hence the point of the article.

      How about you focus on the important issues instead of just trying to slam this site.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:35am

      Re:

      Neurosurgeon accidentally drills through your brain?

      No problem. Mistakes happen.

      Mechanic accidentally forgets to tighten some crucial bits on an air plane and said plane crashes killing everyone inside?

      Human error. Let it slide.

      Danish police accidentally censor over 8,000 sites as child porn?

      My bad, won't happen again



      Do you understand what I am trying to say?

      There are certain people that we trust to perform certain critical tasks. If they fail at doing their job, we get angry. Very angry.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Bengie, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re:

        "Neurosurgeon accidentally drills through your brain?"
        Sued

        "Mechanic accidentally forgets to tighten some crucial bits on an air plane and said plane crashes killing everyone inside?"
        Sued

        When people make mistakes, they should take responsibility for all damages caused by said mistakes. The only time people don't take full responsibility is if there is a contract signed by both parties putting a limit on damages.

        Who gets sued this time?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Neal, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:39am

      Re:

      You make a good point and, truthfully, Mike misses one. All the due process in the world can't prevent a human error like this. But there certainly could be, and should've been, a better process in place to manage and disseminate the list - one that safeguards against such simple errors. Imagine if this list didn't contain big names like Google, but were a list of individual's personal web sites that was being compiled for some other purpose. How many reputations and livelihoods might that ruin before someone noticed and fixed the error? How many of these individuals could never recover because there is no way or means to reach out to those who saw the censor warning and say "hey, we screwed up and accused an innocent party."

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Machin Shin (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      There is human error like deleting your book report and there then is human error like opps I launched nuke at North Korea. For some odd reason though the second one never seems to happen. Ever wonder why that is? It is called safeties you moron.

      When you have a great destructive power you don't set it up so some bumbling idiot can launch it. You set it up so that it requires several people to be involved and so it never "accidentally" goes off.

      There is NO excuse for a system like this to be setup in such a way it is susceptible to "human error".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      How about you get the story right?


      How did TD get the story wrong?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        PaulT (profile), Mar 6th, 2012 @ 12:58am

        Re: Re:

        "How did TD get the story wrong?"

        They didn't. AC found an irrelevant angle to attack the story, and decide to use that angle. Completely missing the actual point or focus of the story, of course, but it wouldn't be a day with a 'y' in it if the ACs had to actually admit to there being a problem rather than attacking someone.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Bengie, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      "Human error, it happens. The guy made a mistake, and the mistake was rapidly fixed. It happens."

      There is a fine line between a "mistake" and strait up "negligence".

      Drunk drivers. They don't intend to kill people. Meh, mistakes happen.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      WysiWyg (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:35am

      Re:

      "You don't think so? Ask your wonderful new hosting company why your site is either unreachable or has no stories about 10% of the time. Oh noes!"

      If I found out that my site was unreachable because some schmuck at the hosting company was using the servers to play Minesweeper, then yeah, I would be pretty pissed. And not just at the numbnuts that caused havoc, but more importantly I would be pissed at the company for having a system that allows the admins to play Minesweeper on the servers, despite this bringing them down.

      (And yes, I know that's not what happened, I just tried to put you analogy in place.)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    The takedown is bad enough, but even worse is this:

    "which could be regarded as child pornography... "

    Could be?

    Could be the Danish Police are good at their jobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:49am

    Hey, let's try and look at this in a positive light? I mean, at least they're really really good at censoring things! Not necessarily the things they mean to, or when they mean to, but I'll be damned if they can't swing that hammer with some power, even accidentally.

    Ok...yeah...that's the most positive I could come up with...oh God now I need a drink

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 8:50am

    Bigger picture or low caffeine?

    Why is it that, when one bothers to lift the rock and see what crawls out from beneath, these government "High Tech Crime" units seem to bear more of a resemblance to Keystone Kops with a metric butt-load of self-righteousness and self-entitlement thrown in than they bear to actual law enforcement agencies? I'm really trying to laugh at the level of gleeful buffoonery that law enforcement agencies around the globe define as Standard Operating Procedure, but really, isn't it a bit past time that Someone In A High Place While In Possession Of A Brain realized that painting one's actions in bold, colorful strokes of cretinism only /reduces/ respect for law enforcement agencies and their actions. Am I expecting too much, or do I just need a few more cups of caffeine to stabilize my (already low) expectations of the People We Depend Upon To Protect Us From Evil? Gah!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:00am

    But this is all fixed now.
    The system now requires 2 people to sign off before the list goes out.

    One has to wonder about the intelligence of we'll protect the world, but we won't buy an isolated machine to avoid Bob from accounting trying to play Angry Birds and mucking it all up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:10am

    We still do it bigger...

    Puh, only 8000? in the US we go big! 84000 is better! So what if you got google? Facebook? Bah! it still only counts as one!

    USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

    So yeah...hows that censorship thing working out for ya?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:18am

    and screw the ISPs who took a 8,000 [legit] site list without even looking at it

    this is unacceptable

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      WysiWyg (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:38am

      Re:

      Given the fact that they are only following the law, I see no problem with it. I'm pretty sure that even though that list wasn't on the level, not adding the sites would probably have been illegal. Maybe.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:51am

        Re: Re:

        i understand what you are saying, but at the same time I am curious to know why only 2 ISPs followed that protocol

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          WysiWyg (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 10:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          As I understand it, they noticed the mistake pretty quickly, so only two had copied the list. Most likely they don't all update their lists at the same time?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 10:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            exactly my point. these 2 ISPs probably have an automated system that accepts what the man tells them to do. without oversight. without review

            THAT is unacceptable

            cliche, it may be; but who watches the watchers? i don't care if it was an innocent mistake

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Machin Shin (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 9:53am

        Re: Re:

        If I was the one working at the ISP and saw this list then I would just laugh as I put it into effect. I mean sometimes you just have to stand back and laugh while some idiot kicks a hornet nest. The government wanted that list blocked so I would block it just to wake some people up to the stupidity.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Simple Mind (profile), Mar 5th, 2012 @ 11:14am

    child pornography rampant *rant*

    Are there really (any) websites out there that are just dumping child porn out there for all to see? Considering the effort being put into blocking CP websites it must be a major problem. I guess if you block one website, the evil child pronographers must jump to another like playing wack-a-mole. These guys must be totally motivated to make CP visible for everyone to see. I guess a significant portion of the population must be interested in looking at it considering the huge problem it is on the web. Who knew? And cops are just too few to deal with it by going out and arresting the perpetrators. We need to give them tools so they can sit behind a desk all day pushing buttons to block any hint of the dreaded CP threatening to ooze out onto everyone's screens. If they were to go out and arrest the ones setting up these websites then what buttons would they need to push tomorrow?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 7:24pm

    This part is quite startling

    has informed Siminn Denmark A/S, that the internet page which your browser has tried to get in contact with may contain material which could be regarded as child pornography...


    Its so nice to see you great and glorious western democracies, practice such obvious thought crime prevention.

    After all, May and Could are the biggest criminals around.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Kronborg, Mar 6th, 2012 @ 11:50am

    Voluntary service

    As far as I know the entire filtering system is a opt in system for ISPís. It is a service that the Danish police offer ISPís in corporation with Save the Children Denmark.
    It is however unfortunate that it is possible for one error to have such consequences. However when the error was detected it was promptly corrected (the block lasted less than an hour) and the police apologized. Also the automation of the system is on the ISP side of the system.
    Source in Danish: http://epn.dk/teknologi2/computer/article2710532.ece

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This