ENDitorial: Finnish web censorship

By EDRi · February 27, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

As of 1 January 2007 a law took effect in Finland allowing the Police to
maintain a secret blacklist of child porn sites and distribute it to ISPs so
that these may block access to those sites. Use of the lists is ostensibly
voluntary to ISPs, but there have been rather strong hints of making it
mandatory if not adopted otherwise. After a slow start, Police actually
started distributing the list late last year and several ISPs have began
using them.

In February 2008, the police added the site lapsiporno.info to the
blacklist. Despite the name (Lapsiporno means “child porn” in Finnish), the
website contains no child or any other kind of porn, but criticism of
censorship and a partial collection of addresses from the officially secret

Publishing the list was apparently what made the police blacklist it. The
point of the published list, however, was to demonstrate that not all
blocked sites were child porn ones and there, it has succeeded beyond

Several people have gone through the list of over 1000 addresses and have
concluded that the numbers of actual child porn sites are no more than 10,
with some 30 or so borderline cases. Most of the sites contained legal
sexual content, while some had no apparent connection with sex at all, like
a violin shop in Japan and a memorial of Thailand’s late princess. Even one
search engine was blocked.

After a public outcry, the police stated they woudn’t explain the
justification of blocking any individual site, but suggested that the
collection of links to the banned sites could be construed as a “portal” to
them, and summoned Matti Nikki for questioning, under suspicion of aiding
the distribution of child porn. No charges have been made as of now.

Meanwhile, there have been several complaints about the legitimacy of the
law and the legality of the Police action to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and
to the Chancellor of Justice, among others by EDRi-member Electronic
Frontier Finland, arguing, inter alia, that the law is against the
constitution, the police interpretation of it is arbitrary and the law
wouldn’t achieve its stated purpose even if effectively implemented.

The minister of communications, Ms. Suvi Lindén, defended the law in public
in a way that suggested she completely failed to understand the point of the
criticism, even hinting she’d want to make filtering mandatory to ISPs.
Subsequently, a Internet petition was started demanding her resignation,
which until now it has attracted almost 12000 signatures (for the sake of
comparison, she was elected to the Parliament with just 4131 votes).

Otherwise, only one parliamentarian, Mr. Jyrki Kasvi, has spoken against the
censorship – others have made no public statements whatsoever. Finnish
politicians have clearly been taken by surprise.

There have been talks about “crisis of democracy” in Finland due to the
decreasing voter turnout. Perhaps there is a crisis but rather due to
government actions eroding people’s freedoms. That people are rising to
defend freedom of speech even in such a controversial context suggests
democracy isn’t dead here yet.

Finish Internet Censorship List

Recent developments in the Finnish Internet censorship system. The Finnish
police censors much more than was originally intended (18.02.2008)

(Contribution by Tapani Tarvainen – EDRi-member Electronic Frontier