Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) and the website of YLE (the Finish national public boradcasting agency) report about censorship of a Finish site. The site in question, lapsiporno.info (“childpornography”.info), by Internet activist Matti Nikki, criticizes
a new Finish Law that prescribes Internet Access providers toÂ the new Finish practices of law enforcement pressuring internet access providers to use their secret lists to filter the internet for their subscribers, aiming to prevent access to child pornography.
The particular site does not contain child pornography. It does have a list of several hundreds of URL’s that are filtered as a result of the new Finish Law.
There are a number of critically important issues here.
First, who decided to put this website on the list and on what grounds? If the site is considered to be illegal, why would it be put on such a filter list if it is hosted in Finland? The site should be targeted instead and possibly taken down after due process.
If public authorities put a website on a filter list for access providers, without that website being illegal, this is unacceptable. It is even more unacceptable in case those access providers are obliged to filter on the basis of that list.
Filtering by access providers should be a last resort, if it were to be accepted as a public policy at all. The filtering of websites by access providers at the request of public authorities, which are hosted in the same country, is unacceptable. It means law enforcement is too lazy to do their job. To put a website on a list is very easy. To start a legal procedure takes time and effort.
Finally, the said list (if correct) contains mostly US and EU based websites. Of the EU based websites most of them are listed as Netherlands based. Two questions arise. First, what does this mean for Dutch law enforcement. Should they already have taken down these sites or are they legal? Second, how does this list relate to the international filtering list of child pornography and the list that is used by Dutch Internet access provider UPC (owned by Liberty Global)?
UPDATE: the idea in Finland seems to be that the filtering by access providers is voluntarily. Thus, the provision of the list by law enforcement authorities is merely a ‘service’ to the private sector. The same is argued in the Netherlands by the national police agency the KLPD that provides the list to UPC. It also resembles the official arguments about filtering by search engines in Germany. I would argue it is not self regulation, but co-regulation and public authorities should be held fully accountable for their role in these filtering schemes. If they are the effective controllers of the list and they argue it’s a child pornography list, they cannot point to the ISPs using it as being the only ones responsible. Also, if it would be completely voluntarily, the access providers run a serious risks of having some other lists provided to them for filtering.