EC proposes net filters

European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström today announced the internet is a series of tubes which ought to be blocked to make sure Europeans will not receive pictures of abused children in their pneumatic capsule.

Malmström’s proposal for a new directive takes account of “new forms of sexual abuse and exploitation facilitated by the use of the Internet would be criminalised, such as grooming or viewing child pornography without downloading the files.” 

In order to prevent offences being committed, “national mechanisms to block access to websites with child pornography, which are most often located outside the EU, should be put in place under the supervision of judicial services or the police.”

German NGO AK Zensur (Censorship Working group) criticised the new proposal. The EC should be working on ways and means to prosecute criminals worldwide, instead of blocking the content they produce. AK Zensur was founded last year after Germany’s reigning conservative party CDU come up with the idea to filter the net as part of its election campaign. The law was widely criticised and has not been implemented despite being passed, as the current Interior Minister deems it useless.

Various groups formed and merged to form AK Zensur. One of the groups, MOgIS (Child abuse Victims against Internet Filters) blasted the law proposal, saying stop signs and filters would not prevent sexual exploitation. AK Zensur claims filters are also counterproductive – criminals can check if the content they are selling is being blocked by a certain country and warn customers if it is – and move the content onto a different server some place else.

Malmström’s proposal also states sites containing child pornography “are most often located outside the EU.” Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office analysed a Danish list of blocked sites and discovered servers hosting child pornography were located in the USA (1148), Germany (199), The Netherlands (79) and Canada (57). Content is mostly located within the West, not in failed states, says AK Zensur.

One of the other main points of criticism is that content can easily be deleted by contacting an institution such as INHOPE or reporting abuse to webhosters – installing and creating filter lists to block access in nonsensical if content can be deleted. As for “grooming”, the question can be raised if an 18 year old chatting to a 17 year old using Skype or ICQ would be considered a criminal offense.

Malmström’s proposal also calls for prosecution of sex tourists, who abuse children in foreign countries outside of the EU, as well as more help and support for victims of child abuse. It also demands better and individualised therapies for offenders. All of these are a good and sensible thing, installing a filter regime, however, is not.