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European Parliament Doubts Effectiveness of Internet Website Blocking and Deletion

Posted: 16th Nov, 2010 By: MarkJ
european union map flagThe European Parliament has warned that plans aimed at forcing EU broadband ISPs into blocking websites that contain child abuse content, much like the Internet Watch Foundation ( IWF ) already does in the UK, may not be entirely effective due to differing state "sensitivities" and how it only affords a "merely cosmetic" appearance of having done something useful.

The issue itself was discussed by MEP's during a preliminary debate on a proposed EU directive that seeks to help prevent the sexual abuse of children and child pornography. Several European Commission (EC) members have been pushing for such a system, although MEP's were clearly more sceptical of its merits.

Ministers pointed out that blocking internet access or deleting internet pages was a particularly sensitive area, with a number of member states having "different traditions and sensibilities". However others, such as MEP Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, DE), noted that, "blocking does not seem to be very efficient" at all, before suggesting that such measures should be left up to individual EU member states.

"In a hearing in October we heard one organization of victims and it was against blocking websites", pointed out MEP Andrew Brons (NI, UK), adding that "blocking can be merely cosmetic", and noting the case of an Irish bakery website which had been linked to a site containing child pornography without the knowledge of the original internet host server.

"Blocking web sites is not just a conflict of legal traditions, it's also a political matter", said MEP Jan Albrecht (Greens/EFA, DE). "Deletion apparently doesn't work", he said, noting that the web site of a campaign against child pornography had twice been blocked in the Netherlands.

Admittedly nobody wants child abuse filth on the internet! The problem is often that it won't stop at abuse images; as we've already seen with the UK Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA) and excessive copyright enforcement measures. Likewise such restrictions are only skin deep and can easily be circumvented using proxy servers, VPN, DNS changes and secure connections.


The IWF system has also caused plenty of cases where legitimate websites (e.g. Wikipedia, Rapidshare etc.) end up being blocked due to the problems inherent with how ISPs implement it, although these are usually fixed after a few days. At least until the filter is updated again.

It's understood that the current proposals will be discussed as a priority item at December's council meeting, where a final decision will be sought. The aim would be to have any new directive finalised and approved under the Hungarian Presidency next year.
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