Fighting Child Pr0n on the Net

Child abuse is something I keep an eye on and about which I have a strong opinion. In the last few weeks, German politicians discovered the topic. Foremost, our Minister for Family, Ursual von der Leyen, started a crusade to implement Internet filter technology at the ISP level to “fight” child pr0n. Note my subtle attempt to influence your opinion by using “crusade” which means to go to a foreign place, lay waste to the land, kill everyone there, in the name of all that is Good and Just.

Let’s see what the new law is trying to achieve. If you happen to click on a link that leads to a child pr0n site, you’ll see a stop page instead, explaining that you were about to see illegal content. While she insists that this will have no further consequences (especially, the time and IP will not be logged, the minister promised in a radio interview), there are already voices who want that data. Other voices already start crying “why don’t you block pirate sites, too?” We Germans know all too well how great censorship works, how easily it starts small, how fast it grows and what kind of persons it attracts. Not convinced? Let me give you some examples.

You’re browsing the web, follow an ad, and suddenly, you see the stop page. No harm done. Unless some clever guy at the ISP is making a private copy of the stop server’s log. And calls you the next day (since he can easily figure out who you are), threatening you to tell everyone about your disgusting character. Think about a moment how you would defend against such an attack. How would you explain to your wife/husband if it wasn’t you answering the phone?

Everyone knows how to secure a WLAN. Well, everyone, who knows more about WLAN other than how to buy one. So there are still many unprotected WLANs out there and guess who will go to jail after a criminal has used one of them to download lots of child pr0n. If it’s not a WLAN, then you’re better an expert in protecting your computer against viruses and remote control exploits. I mean, everyone is. There are no bot-nets out there, counting thousands of computers, where a criminal can do anything they damn well please, knowing full well that all the blame will go to the fool who owns the PC.

Or you’re like me and find child pr0n disgusting. Only, even downloading such an image is a criminal offense. So … when I would stumble upon something, I could not report that to the authorities because they would first arrest me, before considering going through to the tedious and probably futile process of trying to figure out who owns the domain where I found that stuff. If I would claim that a German domain contains child pr0n, the ISP would have to take down the site without being allowed to check whether my claims are true! If they did, the police would have to arrest them! Otherwise, the owner of the site could argue in court why he was being prosecuted and they were not. Before the law, all are equal, are they not?

To protect the people working at the German ISPs, the list of blocked sites must be secret. If that single sever is not working correctly (and how would you check that without going to jail?), this ISP is going to have a whole lot of very upset customers who suddenly see stop pages for legal sites. Or, the other way around, the server is not blocking something it should. How do you argue in court that a site which should have been on the list wasn’t blocked? It’s a secret list, you must not look at it!

So instead of spending money to create a help line for abused children, helping mothers and fathers to leave an abusive other, making the topic a non-taboo, so we could speak about it, politicians propose that we just don’t see the problem anymore. Sounds like a simple solution. We all know how good a simple solution sounds and how rarely they work out.

No criticism without a better proposal. If you don’t like thought-provoking ideas, this is not for you. Go away. Don’t read on. You’ve been warned.

All laws making temporary ownership of a small number of images must be revoked. Anyone on the planet must be allowed to report these findings without having to fear any kind of prosecution. No Internet censorship. Instead, we block access to domains which are run by registrars that boast not to comply to any law. That’s simple because we can block by IP (the list above would contain site names and as someone who knows what that means technically, that gives me nightmares). Anything left over must then come from a law-abiding registrar and those can and will take down such sites. Furthermore, they can quickly turn over the details about the person behind the offering, so they can be prosecuted like any other criminal. That doesn’t even need a lawyer or judge or court, anyone working for the ISP could check the site (because they won’t go to jail anymore), see what is going on and pull the plug within minutes. Before the police could hang up the phone, they’d have the name and address of the owner of the site and half an hour later, someone would have to answer some serious questions. And even if that person couldn’t be found, the site would be gone  forever, for anyone on the planet (instead of just for the 80 million Germans).

To find such sites, I’d turn to locked up, incurable offenders. Since they are incurable, they are effectively locked up forever. Why not use that as an advantage and, with their prior consent, give them a computer, a fat Internet connection and a well-loaded credit card? They could even locate material in closed user groups and fast-flux-networks, something a filter list will never be able to do. Everyone would get what they want. Cynical, but still true.

Radical? Maybe … but how would you call a “solution” which leaves the victims to suffer and the offenders free to cause more pain? Because that’s, in a nutshell, what the current proposal is all about. It’s probably a pure coincidence that such an important issue comes up close to the reelections.

Next time you see someone pointing and screaming at something, remember that they point at themselves with three fingers.

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