Feeds

Belgium wants in on European web blocklist

When in Bruges, do as the [censored] do

High performance access to file storage

In a brave attempt to generate some international interest in its internal affairs, Belgium declared last week that it intends to join the ranks of European nations operating a hidden list of blocked websites.

The move is controversial, as it would build on existing powers to block websites – but essentially hand jurisdiction over what gets blocked on a day to day basis to the police.

In all likelihood, that means federal police special division Federal Computer Crime Unit (FCCU). They would get the authority to compose the blacklists of to be blocked websites, without any legal safeguards or external oversight mechanisms. The fact that the FCCU has already suggested that this practice should also be applicable in other cases has raised concerns amongst those concerned with uncontrolled and over-zealous censorship of the internet.

The Flemish League for Human Rights (Liga voor Mensenrechten) has criticised the proposal, saying: "The decision to block websites must remain under exclusive authority of the judicial branch. It is unacceptable that the police gets a wild card to block certain websites at will."

The problem is that in Belgium, as in many other European states, there is now a direct clash between a legal process that allows an accused website to argue its case, and a great deal of public pressure for instant action. When the issue of "take-down" was discussed in the UK parliament recently, the influential Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport expressed dismay that some ISPs were taking as long as 24 hours to take down what they considered to be harmful content.

The Belgian proposal has the backing of Minister of Enterprise and Administrative Reform, Vincent Van Quickenborne. He is looking to ban child pornography on the internet through a protocol between ISPs and the Government. However, it has also been suggested that the protocol might extend to other illegal sites, such as hate and racism websites or internet fraud.

As befits a politician granted the title "Ministre... de la simplification", Monsieur Van Quickenborne wants a more flexible mechanism that can be used more quickly to effectively block websites.

The simple easy answer, of granting the police virtually unchecked powers to censor, coupled with the inevitable secrecy surrounding the process, echoes that already put in place or proposed in a number of other European countries. Romania, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Finland already use such filtering in one way or another.

Germany is likely to start putting blocks in place shortly. The UK has engineered a similar result, through the rather uniquely British solution of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). This is not an official government body - however, it too maintains a secret blocklist which is compiled on the basis of close co-operation with the British police.

Critics of this approach, such as Lillian Edwards, Professor of Internet Law at Sheffield University, have tended to focus on the same criticisms. It should not be up to the police to decide what is or is not legal in such an important area: even if expedience requires the police to make an instant judgment call, the matter ought in some form to be referred to a court or other judicial authority for ratification at the earliest possible moment.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.