Europe questions move to block child sex abuse images
Probably not effective, or legally possible across the EU
Members of the European Parliament have cast doubt on plans to move to community-wide blocking of child sexual abuse images.
The Civil Liberties Committee questioned whether such blocking would be effective and whether different legal traditions across Europe would make such blocking impossible.
Alexander Alvaro (Alliance of Lib Dems MEP Germany) said: "Blocking does not seem to be very efficient."
Alvaro said blocking would be better implemented by individual states and said there might be issues with getting the US and Russia to remove sites hosted internally.
Current measures against child abuse images on the web in the UK, run by the Internet Watch Foundation, are run from a watchlist based on public complaints. The IWF also passes details onto international partners for content not hosted in the UK.
Apart from the occasional hoo-hah for blocking Wikipedia it does a reasonable job.
But the IWF remit does not extend to peer-to-peer networks or other distribution methods.
The European Union is in the early stages of creating a directive which it hopes will be adopted next year.
Issues include preventing people who have committed child sex offences from getting a job with children in another community country, stopping child sex tourism and blocking access to certain websites.
A spokeswoman for the IWF sent us the following:
“The IWF is the Hotline for the public to report online criminal content within our remit. We issue a 'notice and takedown' for that content so it is quickly removed from circulation. We consider removal at source to be the most effective way of combating child sexual abuse images online, and less than 1% of all child sexual abuse images known to the IWF are hosted in the UK.
We also work internationally by passing details of every identified non-UK website to our partner Hotline in that country, so they can investigate within their own legislation and in cooperation with their national law enforcement agencies. Whilst steps to have that content removed are in progress, the UK internet industry has voluntarily agreed to block access to them using a list provided by the IWF.
We consider URL level blocking to be a short-term disruption tactic to be used in conjunction with notice and takedown which can help protect internet users from stumbling across these images.
Neither blocking nor notice and takedown can put an end to offenders abusing children, nor can they effectively deny determined criminals who are actively seeking such material. It can however help to minimise the re-victimisation of the child by preventing images of their sexual abuse being repeatedly viewed.”
The full statement from the European Parliament is here. ®
The problem is that there's far too much hysteria about this, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries. Wanting to tackle genuine child abuse is one thing, but then arresting parents because they take a photo of their children playing at bathtime, or a school kid because he has a topless photo of his 17-year old girlfriend on his mobile phone, is a quite barmy overreaction in my opinion, and risks bringing the whole system into disrepute.
No it doesn't do a "reasonable job"
Far from it. Right now it's wreaking havoc with many sites such as Rapidshare, Megaupload etc on a number of ISPs (O2 and Be for example). It filters all traffic to a suspect site through a single proxy, triggering their fair-use limits and also in some cases, triggering the "too many failed login attempt" error for paid-up users.
It's a farcical system with little or no police control, no judicial review or elected officials, yet somehow has a grip on the majority of our ISPs, albeit with "good intentions".
And all this while ignoring the fact that it won't be touching the darker sides of the web and is only protecting casual users from accidental viewing - something which isn't illegal anyway AFAIK.
Child abuse is a horrific crime, but attempting to solve it by hiding it away is really not going to fix the problem.
The majority stance?
Unlikely. Most if not all of us will probably agree that sexually abusing children is a pretty bad no-no. What to do about it is something else entirely.
For one, the "at all costs" bit would justify imprisonment or extermination of the entire male population. Come to think of it, there's been cases of wimmins abusing children too innit? Can't be too cautious, let's do the same to them. Nobody left to care for the children? What a pity, but at least there's nobody left to make child porn!
I'm quite sure there's very few people who would go quite that far.
Before you complain that's over the top: Yes, yes it is. But that's what "at all costs" implies: No holds barred, everything is fair game, anything goes, including throwing sanity right out the window. Which is what generally happens when moral panics get a hold on the politicians, as happened with the child porn scare.
You said "at all costs". If you don't want to go quite that far then don't say you want to. Otherwise you indeed run the risk of sounding like a daily fail reader.
And blocking is a bad idea anyway. Even forgetting that even an EU wide block wouldn't be able to block everything. There would always be false positives and false negatives even before people got smart and found ways around it--as happens all the time in China and elsewhere. Sweeping the evidence under the rug isn't quite the same as punishing past or current abuse or even preventing future abuse. So you have to ask yourself: What is it that we really want or do not want? What do we want to focus our efforts on? Finding perpetrators of actual abuse or harass people for mere possession of pervy pictures?
There are so many much better things than introducing EU-wide blocklist red tape that you can do. Things that will actually help prevent abuse and help abused children get over it and punish offenders and prevent them from doing it again that it's really quite a shame that people opt for the lazy censorship cop-out. Especially since the damage done by imposing censorhip --it attracts more censorship, proposals for that have already surfaced in fact-- is a direct attack on our liberties and with that a clear attack on democracy.
So what is it that you really want? Do you want quick feel-good papering-over, or would you rather go the long, hard, arduous way of going after the actual abusing-of-kids?