ENDitorial: Turkish censorship – Swedish built, by royal appointment

By EDRi · June 18, 2014

The level of political support in Sweden for blocking, for blocking outside the rule of law and for the export of the filtering and blocking services of the Swedish internet filtering company NetClean is quite extraordinary.

Domestically, Sweden has a chaotic “voluntary” web blocking scheme, whereby Internet providers block a range of websites on the basis of a list generated by the police, with no judicial oversight. We are told by Swedish companies that the list is updated every two to three weeks. As data from hotlines indicate that such websites stay online for an average of fewer than 12 days, this means that, most of the time, the majority of the the sites on the list no longer exist. Of course, the task is not – the task was never – to protect children. The task was to make it look like somebody was doing something – and the promotion of the commercial interests of a Swedish company was almost certainly a coincidence.

When the Swedish European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem took office, one of her first actions was to propose mandatory web blocking in the EU. She presented no evidence to suggest that the policy would be useful, she made no proposal for implementation to make sure that it would be done efficiently, she did not even present any analysis that would confirm that the approach would not damage child protection. Blocking, at all costs, no questions asked. Child protection is too important to demand effectiveness or evidence. The promotion of the commercial interests of a Swedish company was almost certainly a coincidence.

As early as 2005, even the Queen of Sweden was used by NetClean to sell its products. NetClean is marketed (“through its amazing network of contacts”) and financed by the “World Childhood Foundation” which was launched by Queen Silvia in 2005. In June 2012, the Swedish Embassy in Japan organised an event to discuss blocking in that country, together with Christian Berg, NetClean’s CEO and Queen Silvia. The promotion of the commercial interests of a Swedish company in this event… well, this was not a coincidence.

With a new contract with Turkey, NetClean is entering the big leagues. It has agreed a 40 million Euro contract for the filtering of Twitter messages. The fact that Turkey has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights repeatedly for illegal internet blocking and filtering appears to be completely unproblematic for NetClean or its high level political backers in the Swedish or European hierarchies. The fact that, following the example it has seen elsewhere, Turkey is abusing child abuse as an excuse to impose blocking measures for broader issues appears to be of no concern. Indeed, the European model is being copied almost word for word – Neelie Kroes’ “Telecoms Single Market Regulation” proposes ad hoc blocking/filtering by internet companies for undefined “serious crime” “including” child pornography. Echoing Kroes’ proposal, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet explained the filtering will be used to automatically delete content “including child porn, ill-advised photos or terrorist content”.

Despite all of the words that emanate from Sweden with regard to internet freedom, perhaps this entire approach is consistent with stated position of the country:

“Sweden’s foreign policy proceeds clearly from the values on which our own society is built and from our own interests.”

Sweden’s Foreign Policy

Turkey’s top soldier warns against social media as gov’t to purchase software against illegal shares (30.05.2014)

Turkey: Landmark European Court Decision finds blanket Google ban was a violation of freedom of expression (18.12.2012)