ENDitorial: Why it was good to propose web blocking for child abuse images

By EDRi · July 13, 2011

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Deutsch: [ENDitorial: Warum es gut war, Netzsperren vorzuschlagen |]

Now that the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee has voted again (yesterday, 12 July 2011, by 50 votes to zero) against the introduction of mandatory EU-wide Internet blocking, it is worth considering the huge value of the German blocking proposal by then Minister Von Der Leyen and the subsequent EU-level blocking proposal by Commissioner Malmström. These two women did more for the anti-blocking campaign than they frequently receive credit for.

When asked to introduce blocking “voluntarily”, the German Internet industry
took the brave decision, unlike ISPs in countries like Denmark, Sweden and
the UK, to demand a democratic process and a law before blocking could be
introduced. This led to a German draft law and extensive public debate over
many months. This public debate led to an understanding that protection of
children online is about effective policy and not populism. As a result,
blocking was rejected in Germany and the German government was in a position
to fight strongly against blocking on an EU level. Without Minister Von Der
Leyen’s proposal, the German government would not have been in a position to
take a crucial stand against blocking and the outcome could have been very
different. Indeed, without Minister von der Leyen’s blocking proposal, the
German victims’ association against Internet blocking (MOGiS e.V.) would
probably not have been founded and its energetic and effective work on a
European level would never have been done.

Only days after being appointed as Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia
Malmström announced that blocking would be included in the Child
Exploitation Directive. This gave activists the maximum amount of time to
campaign against the proposal, from March 2010 until now. Without the
Commission’s proposal, a campaign would have been difficult because it would
have been a campaign against blocking in a legislative proposal that hadn’t
actually proposed blocking!

However, towards the end of the legislative process in the European
Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, it is very likely that blocking
would have been proposed by some MEPs. This proposal would have been much
stronger politically because, firstly, the anti-blocking campaign would have
had to react in a far shorter timeframe and, secondly, it would have
involved the Parliament deciding about a proposal that came from inside the
Parliament, rather than from another institution.

In short, Minister Van Der Leyen’s proposal was essential in ensuring the
game-changing position of the German government in the EU Council of
Ministers, while Commissioner Malmström’s proposal was crucial in ensuring
that the European Parliament was given the maximum amount of time to analyse
blocking before coming to the inevitable conclusion that it is the wrong

Commissioner Malmström’s proposal has also had other very positive outcomes.
As a result of the blocking proposal, the pre-existing failures of the
European Commission to take action against online crimes against children
became more obvious. This led to strong international efforts to address
measures against child abuse websites in the United States and Russia.
Within weeks of the proposal being made, the European Commission launched a
joint action with the United States to address this problem – action which
involved the highest levels in both the Commission and the US

Statistics to be published shortly will show that delays in addressing child
abuse websites in the USA have been hugely reduced – with, for example, the
time taken by the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to
process international law enforcement reports dropping from 5.12 days in May
2010 to 0.50 days in May 2011, with overall processing time dropping from
6.85 days to 0.91 days. The Russian child abuse hotlines are similarly
reporting major improvements. Ironically, therefore, the Commission’s
blocking proposal has had the effect of making blocking more pointless, more
disproportionate and more indefensible than it has ever been. Of course,
while removal of child abuse websites is infinitely better than blocking
them, we must remain vigilant that the removal of such sites is seen as an
end in itself and that due process of law is followed to ensure that
criminal activity is investigated and prosecuted.

In summary, if blocking had not been proposed by Minister Van Der Leyen and
Commissioner Malmström, it is quite possible that we would now have EU-wide
blocking. If Commissioner Malmström had not proposed blocking, the major
improvements that mean that blocking is even more pointless than ever would
never have happened. It was good for them to propose blocking, because
that’s why we do not have EU-wide blocking.

US, EU against Internet child porn (12.04.2010)

Russian hotline

EDRi blocking booklet

Abuse victims’ association against Internet blocking

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)