Internet blocking gets a red card !

By EDRi · November 4, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Internetsperren erhalten die rote Karte! |]

Government attempts to block access to the Internet are mounting throughout
Europe – but look set to backfire, a new study published on 22 October 2009

The Open Society Institute funded the report which is titled “Internet
Blocking: Balancing Cybercrime Responses in Democratic Societies.” Four
experienced professionals, Cormac Callanan of Ireland, Marco Gercke of
Germany, Estelle De Marco of France, and Hein Dries-Ziekenheiner of the
Netherlands, collaborated on the research. Callanan, who is also a member of
the Irish Internet Safety Advisory Council, presented the report at a press
conference in Brussels.

We all know about efforts to censor the Internet in undemocratic countries
such as China. But the study shows how efforts to block Internet content are
spreading throughout democratic Europe. In Germany, Britain, Italy and
Scandinavia, the measures are intended to block pages containing child
pornography. In France, the proposed “three strikes” law would cut access to
users who upload allegedly copyrighted content. In Turkey, the
Telecommunications ministry has blocked more than 6,000 websites, including
YouTube, Geocities, DailyMotion, and WordPress.

Though some of the motivations behind Internet blocking are understandable –
everyone wants to crack down on child pornography, for example – the new
study concludes that the measures are ineffective. Many technical ways exist
to get around blocking technologies. More importantly, the blocking measures
are intrusive and often abuse fundamental freedoms. These systems either
over-block or under-block content and do not prevent the serious offender
from gaining access.

“Attempts to block offensive content all too often backfire,” Callanan says.
“Technically, it is difficult. Legally, it is problematic. Above all, it
represents a real threat to the free transfer of information and conflicts
with basic democratic principles.”

Graham Watson MEP, former President of the Civil Liberties Committee of the
European Parliament commented on the report: “It is remarkable that this
kind of research was not published by the Commission before it launched its
proposal for EU-wide blocking of websites. Protection of children is a
matter of the utmost importance, but this does not mean that the Commission
can propose measures that may well be entirely ineffectual but which
will have long-term consequences for the right of freedom of communication
in Europe.”

Press release in English (22.10.2009)

French version (22.10.2009)

Executive Summary – Internet blocking – balancing cybercrime responses in
democratic societies

Complete report – Internet blocking – balancing cybercrime responses in
democratic societies