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ISPs Warn Europe — Website Blocks Don't Work 210

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the where-have-we-heard-that-before dept.
Mark.JUK writes "The European Internet Services Providers Association has today warned the European Union that plans aimed at tackling online child sexual abuse content, which propose to force ISPs into adopting mandatory website blocking (censorship) technology, will not work because such methods are easy to circumvent; an ISP might cover your eyes but anybody can still take the blindfold off. Instead the EuroISPA has called for members of Parliament to consider permanently removing Internet-based child sexual abuse content at source, although this also runs into problems when the servers are based outside of your jurisdiction."
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ISPs Warn Europe — Website Blocks Don't Work

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  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @12:29PM (#34837360)

    EU: You say it's impossible? Pick one: do it anyway, stop being an ISP, or go to jail. Also, you get to work out the implementation and we get to determine if you're doing it right.

    • We have implemented a filter. If someone goes around it - too bad, but we have done what we can.

      It's nothing new, channels for illegal and immoral information will find new ways all the time. It's like trying to block wasps entering a beehive.

      • by JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @01:51PM (#34838356)
        Here's the problem I see -- it's not that blocking sites is infeasible and ineffective, and it's not that an ISP can't do it anyways, because they can. The problem I see is that when/if an ISP does implement a censor, no matter how ineffective, it will be abused and legitimate content will be blocked for legitimate users. Child porn will still be out there, and the people who participate in that industry will at best be inconvenienced -- it's the legitimate content that accidentally or maliciously gets caught in the crossfire that concerns me. The potential for good approaches zero, and the possible harm is non-negligable. This is why it shouldn't be implemented.
    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @12:57PM (#34837734) Journal

      If I point a gun to your head and tell you that I will kill you if you don't jump over the moon, that still doesn't mean you will jump over the moon. Bypassing any blocks by an ISP can easily be bypassed.

      Using DNS to assign bad sites with fake IPs? Use a different DNS server, any DNS server outside your country. Takes about 1 minute to setup in Windows, or install your own DNS server on your desktop, which will take about 10 minutes. Blocking IP addresses wholesale? Use a proxy server. Slightly slower, but bypasses any block by the ISP in seconds. Deep packet inspection? Use https. The point is that anyone that even remotely wants to bypass the "security" setup by the ISP can, with very little effort. If you don't remove the source (and all mirrors) of content, it is virtually impossible to prevent access to it on the net. Even China can't, and heaven knows, they are trying.

      "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" - John Gilmore, Internet Pioneer

      • Blocking IP addresses wholesale? Use a proxy server.

        Hmm... that depends on finding one that's willing to route your requests, and I doubt that those are cheap. Of course, if I was an LEA, I'd set up a "low cost proxy server for requesting illegal content" and start logging requests right now.

        • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @01:46PM (#34838290)

          finding one that's willing to route your requests, and I doubt that those are cheap.

          tor

      • "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" - John Gilmore, Internet Pioneer

        "Cloud in a box" - Cisco, the company that built the Great Firewall of China.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Actually heard in the French assembly : "They can do it China, why would it be impossible to do in France ?"
      • Maybe 'cause it's hard to shut people up about the details how to circumvent it when you don't hold a gun to their head if they only want to try to attempt to think about pondering going around your Great Firewall.

        But, given the personality of li'l Napoleon, I should probably shut up before I give the gnome some ideas.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @01:26PM (#34838062) Journal
        Serious answer:

        They can't do it in China. The filters (mostly) prevent people from accidentally finding the things that The Party doesn't want them to see. It's pretty easy for anyone in China to work around the filters if they want to. It's also quite easy for the state to identify people who are making an effort to bypass the filters by their traffic patterns. If they're considered a potential threat to the oligarchy, they can be visited in the middle of the night, taken away from their homes, and shot.

        Without implementing the last step, the system wouldn't work. If you can find a politician in your country who wants a secret police with this power, then I suggest that you remove him or her from power by whatever means possible, as soon as is feasible.

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          I know that. Every one in the IT field know that. It is obvious to anyone with a bit of technical skills. I am just pointing out how low the debate is right now here.
      • by Tanktalus (794810)

        That's very interesting. Did anyone understand the poor bloke? Did the ones who may have understood actually admit they could understand such an uninformed outburst of English?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by weicco (645927)

      I told these exact reasons to our Minister of Finance: a) it does't work b) it's easy to circumvent c) it's against the constitution d) it's going to be abused. Still Finland decided to pass a censorship law [wikipedia.org]. It is already abused by censoring local Finnish sites when the law enables censor only foreign sites. There's also gay porn sites and sites that aren't even related to porn any way in the censorship list.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by feepness (543479)

        There's also gay porn sites and sites that aren't even related to porn any way in the censorship list.

        Look, take your bigotry and hatred elsewhere. Gay porn is still porn!

  • Sigh.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @12:34PM (#34837438) Journal

    No one proposes banning pawn shops and second hand shops just because these are used by the criminal element to fence stolen goods. Legitimate businesses or structures are sadly used to illicit ends. You deal with crimes as they happen, not try all manner of questionable laws that infringe on civil liberties in the vain hope that somehow you can prevent crimes from happening.

    The only thing filtering will do is catch the more inept child porn producers and consumers. The smart ones have a command of the technical aspects of the networks they swap their foul evil on. The best we can hope to do with child porn, like any criminal act, is create savvy enough investigators to catch and prosecute them.

    • The best we can hope to do with child porn, like any criminal act, is create savvy enough investigators to catch and prosecute them.

      You set your hopes too low.

      Do it like this:

      "The best I hope can be done with child porn is that the perpetrators are burned alive on worldwide television."

    • by Kjella (173770)

      What fraction of it is distributed via websites anyway - and I mean dedicated websites not passworded files on file hosters and such. It seems to me a very awkward way to do a hit-n-run operation, I know the Internet is a fairly lawless place but I doubt there are countries that'll let you serve it openly. Is this just one more "is she 17 or 18 and do we call that pose sexual but they don't" thing about jurisdictions or what?

      • by hedwards (940851)
        2257 [wikipedia.org] was well intended in the US, but it had some serious flaws to it. For one thing the compliance statement was at the bottom of the page, requiring you to load an entire page of possibly illegal photos in order to check the statement. If you wound up on an index site, good luck figuring out which images if any were illegal. And the records requirements were really tough to comply with.

        But, there was some assurance that you wouldn't be thrown in jail for looking at a 2257 compliant site. Unfortunately
    • Wait, wait... you still think this is really about child porn? C'mon...

    • by Stregano (1285764)
      Kinda like Nick Cage in 8mm. Yeah Nick Cage
    • Most pawn shops do have to enter the seller's ID and the item description into a database for police. Once we get our "internet IDs" some advanced filtering might be able to recognize the contents of each data transmission so that the parties involved can be charged with the appropriate crime.
    • by brkello (642429)

      Your analogy is terrible. Pawn shops have to follow the law or they will be shut down. If they are knowingly selling illegal goods, they will be shut down. Analogies are only useful when trying to explain a difficult concept. This is not one of those cases. The government wants to stop child porn. They propose a technical solution which isn't feasible and places the burden on the ISP. ISP complains it isn't feasible. Pretty simple.

    • The problem is jurisdiction. If the content is hosted in another country the only thing a police force can do it report it to the local authorities and hope. Beyond that, they do have control over the ISPs, so that's who they try to regulate.

      I don't see the problem with just purging those sites from the DNS servers within local jurisdiction. That should cover ISPs plus Google. The stated goal of the filters is to prevent well-intentioned people from accidentally stumbling across illegal content. DNS poisoni

      • Because:
        1. The ISPs don't want to be charged with a list of child porn sites, something so dangerous that to even look at it could get you jailed.
        2. If the block were DNS based, pedophiles would just switch to using IP addresses instead.
        3. Some blocks would be over-broad. Sites that host more than one site under the same DNS name. The same problem as IP blocks, from the different direction.

        The real problem here isn't blocking *some* child porn. That's doable. But if the ISPs block some, then they know
    • by lee1026 (876806)

      I was under the impression that pawn shops and second hand shops have to at least try to make sure that the stuff they are getting is not stolen. You can't just turn a blind eye and act as a fence.

      From wikipedia: These laws often require the pawnbroker to establish positive identification of the seller through photo identification (such as a driver's license or government-issued identity document), as well as a holding period placed on an item purchased by a pawnbroker (to allow for local law enforcement au

  • Like requiring their domestic ISPs to null-route IP addresses instead of just blocking DNS.

    • And what about the poor innocent sods who happen to be running a website on a shared (probably compromised) server?

      • They get to whine and petition the government to open it up again until they go bankrupt. Why're you asking?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      That won't work either. These perverts will simply get VPNs to third world nations.

      • by bsDaemon (87307)

        then block vpn traffic, too. in fact, encryption should be banned, including SSL, except for banks and online merchants, as we wouldn't want the ECONOMY to suffer, now would we? ;-)

  • Surely the only answer is for ISPs to simply flag-up a warning with a 'Do you wish to Continue' button when someone tries to access a child-porn site, but do not block them. The Police know where these sites are, and can presumably log who goes there, with the assistance of the ISPs. This way, innocent surfers will be able to avoid these sites, but the visitors would be logged, and can face the consequences.
    • More and more ways to put your neighbors with open/WEP APs in trouble.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      The problem is identifying those sites. You generally don't have to worry a lot about major pay sites, but the smaller sites and the free sites are a different matter. Establishing the age of the individuals is really the hurdle. It's often times not any easier for law enforcement to determine that the individual is 15 rather than a young looking 18 year old.

      Additionally, if you get dumped onto an index site there's no way of knowing which images are legal and which ones aren't unless they're very obviou
      • And note that in that case, you don't even get to know the obvious ones are illegal until after you have downloaded and looked at them... or at least looked and left them in your browser cache.

        I suppose you could report them, but I imagine most people wouldn't want to risk drawing police attention themselves in such a way. It might result in their computer being siezed as vital evidence, which could turn up other crimes. Best to just delete throughly and pretend you never saw it.
        • by hedwards (940851)
          I wouldn't. I know the FBI wants you to report it if you accidentally download child porn. Personally, I wouldn't, I'd immediately wipe the image from the hard drive with a secure deletion utility not to mention the browser cache and all free space on the computer.

          Remember the US doesn't have a mens rea requirement for possession of child porn, so you're more likely to be turning yourself in than helping them deal with the real criminals.
  • Jurisdiction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lennie (16154) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @12:43PM (#34837562) Homepage

    I call this bullshit.

    Look at banks. When a fake bank site goes up, it only takes hours sometimes a few days for it to be taken down after it was asked. Anywhere in the world.

    But it is probably better not to take the site down, but to collect IP-addresses and so on anyway.

    • Yup, that's pretty much the case. So one has to wonder why.

      How about sites that offer a service that is "illegal" (or just "unwanted" in a country) but legal in the country where the server is positioned.

      Hint: Think beyond child porn to solve this.

  • any sex blocking must pass the breast cancer test or it will fail big time.

    • How about you clarify yourself as to what that is. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2? Monastrol sensitivity? Whether or not you can feel a lump while in the shower?

      • I think he means that if the "solution" blocks access to sites about "breast cancer" (Shades of Websense...), it's wrong.

      • Perhaps you are trolling, but for clarity's sake...

        He's referring to the test as to whether the method of censorship will prevent discussions of breast cancer (including images, text and videos on the subject) to pass through a filter without being censored.

        It is a valuable test because it makes clear that most methods of censorship operate based on words, phrases, or presence of body parts, not on subject matter. Most laws are actually concerned with subject matter, so the disconnect is a critical legal p

        • It's not the only one. I've seen a site on gardening classified as drugs advocacy because it contained such words as 'pot' and 'weed.'
    • by icebraining (1313345) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @01:18PM (#34837978) Homepage

      No, any ISP-level sex blocking should pass the legal porn test. Which also means it's almost impossible to block it automatically, that's why these filters are planned to use manually updated (and probably secret) blacklists.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        You know, it's probably easier to just ban porn, then you don't have to worry about that. Won't happen because despite all the prudish social expressions, Americans like us some porn. It's been a real problem for people that want it banned, but I'd hazard a guess that only a fraction of the people who claim to hate porn in public aren't secretly sneaking a pick in the privacy of their own home.
      • Probably secret? It's a list of the top child porn sites on the internet. Of course it'll be secret. Plus that means that any embarassing mistakes will never come to light, too. Espicially if the filter works by returning a false 404 error or just dropping packets, so it isn't readily apparent that the site was deliberatly blocked at all. The most effective censorship is the type that is never even discovered.
    • by tgd (2822)

      Last I checked, breast cancer was fairly rare in 9 year old girls.

  • I wish these governments would apply all the resources they spend on supressing the EVIDENCE of child abuse, on supressing the abuse itself. Instead, posession of the evidence of the crime seems to be considered the crime itself. I have to wonder what caused this state of affairs to arise and why we don't have rules criminalizing the posession of evidence of other wrongdoing.
    • I know the European governments in question are in fact working hard to stop exactly the crimes you described. I don't know what "governments" you had in mind.

      The European Union, EUROPOL and national police forces collaborate, and have shut down several such criminal networks each year. They have a permanent task force, CIRCAMP, dedicated to this.

      In 2010 the European Union even updated and increased the powers of the police [europa.eu] to respond to online grooming, the absence of positive identification of child victi

      • by QCompson (675963)

        If you attack the producers, someone will replace them soon enough. However if you remove the market, reducing the demand, production and profits will naturally stop.

        Right... because there are massive windfall profits being made in the child pornography industry. I'm sure there are a number of government organizations that will even tell you so. Billions and zillions of dollars annually and so forth.

        I remember learning in school that the only effective way to stop the production and distribution [of drugs] was to target the market.

        Yes, that has been a very effective strategy for the "war on drugs" in the US. It's been a rousing success.

        Do people actually believe that the majority of child porn producers are abusing children not because they have a sexual interest, but because of the profit motiv

  • Surely they can simply declare child porn a "crime against humanity" and therefor subject to "universal jursidiction".

  • nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday January 11, 2011 @01:47PM (#34838302) Homepage Journal

    permanently removing internet based child sexual abuse content at source, although this also runs into problems when the servers are based outside of your jurisdiction."

    No, it doesn't. This is the argument the proponents of filters are putting forward all the time. They've smartened up since we sunk their ship last, and are now claiming their goal is to "only block where we can not delete".

    Well, that would be nowhere because for a year now we've been asking them the same question, and they still haven't provided an answer: "Where in the world would that be?" It turns out that child pornography is illegal in every country on earth that has any Internet infrastructure worth mentioning. An especially naive and dumb politician here in Germany threw out a few country names when the debate started, and was quickly proven wrong in addition to receiving angry comments from those countries ambassadors. Then she tried a stupid trick, claiming that in some countries (again, names were named) there was no law against child pornography. She was technically correct - the muslim countries she had mentioned consider all pornography to illegal, punishable by death, so there is no specific law mentioning children.

    This whole campaign has been lies and bullshit on the side of the proponents from the start. I have yet to hear one argument from their side that is not a lie. However, they aren't dumb. They know how to play the public. They tested the waters and found them hotter than they had anticipated. But their current campaign is lot more "reasonable". In a debate, they stand a great chance of being able to convince Joe Public that they have a moderate POV that takes all eventualities into account and only wants to reserve the most drastic measure for the exceptional cases, but those freedom hippies they are the extremists and refuse to consider the possibility of evil, evil people abusing children by the thousands.

    So, remember, even the "block what we can not delete" is not a balanced position, it is a strawman. The only reason that the police here in Germany does not currently contact providers outside of Germany with a simple notice "hey, you are hosting child pornography, did you know that?" - which according to tests done by an NGO last year leads to a 95% takedown rate within a week, and a 100% takedown rate within a month - is that they are not allowed to do so. Not allowed by whom? Take a guess. Yes, that is right, the same people that need their "inability" to act so they can push for "block where we can not delete".

    They are lying bastards, and children are the least thing they worry about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davidwr (791652)

      It turns out that child pornography is illegal in every country on earth that has any Internet infrastructure worth mentioning.

      Perhaps illegal, but if you look at countries where enforcement is either not a priority or is only done when requested by the politically powerful, including by foreign governments that the local government is or wants to be on good terms with, the numbers change.

      For a good starting point go back to the mid-1990s and count the number of countries that either had no laws outlawing child porn or no or minimal enforcement despite ample evidence it was happening.

      Oh, another set of issues with child porn enforc

      • by Tom (822)

        Perhaps illegal, but if you look at countries where enforcement is either not a priority or is only done when requested by the politically powerful, including by foreign governments that the local government is or wants to be on good terms with, the numbers change.

        Names and numbers, please.

        We've been having this exchange for a year now. Nobody on the pro-blocking side has been able to point out one single case of a site hosted somewhere where a simple request to the hosting company did not result in its takedown.

        For a good starting point go back to the mid-1990s and count the number of countries that either had no laws outlawing child porn or no or minimal enforcement despite ample evidence it was happening.

        Why don't you just post the numbers, instead of creating the impression in readers that there is a significant problem? Enlighten us, which countries did consider child porn to be alright in 1991?

        Not everyone agrees what "underage"

        Nor does it matter in this context. When politicians talk about

    • by dabadab (126782)

      Could you give some links (they can be in German) or at least some search terms regarding this stuff (about the naive politican, the ambassadors and the NGO test)?

  • "...although this also runs into problems when the servers are based outside of your jurisdiction."

    No, it doesn't. [slashdot.org]

    • Well, in this case we're talking about European governments and our [European] jurisdictions.

      The problem is that the majority of such crimes now happen in poor Asian countries, Africa, Russia or the Ukraine. None of which are subject to European Union laws.

      This has been addressed by the EU and partially solved in terms of prosecution. European citizens can be charged and sentenced according to European laws despite the crime occuring in a foreign jurisdiction.

      While the DHS case you cited appears to run foul

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You have advocated a

    (x) technical (x) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting online child porn (and/or pedophilia in general). Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from country to country before a bad international agreement was made.)

    (x) Pedophiles can easily use it to harvest URLs of sites containing child porn
    ( ) Family photo albums with bathtub photos ( )

  • Tell us what you want us to do (and how to do it) & we'll do it, it's not our problem if it's a stupid idea!

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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