June 20, 2009
This list presents 287 internet sites currently censored by Italy. This quasi-voluntary system, which was introduced under the banner of fighting “child pornography” relies on a secret, unaccountable list of site names. Because of this lack of transparency, and the power of the censorship system, the blacklist is of intense interest.
Secret “child pornography” censorship blacklists in other countries, such as China, Thailand, Australia, Finland and Denmark have all been shown by WikiLeaks to have been corrupted into censoring non-child pornographic content, including political content (all but Denmark). It seems to be a law of human affairs that when such powerful, unaccountable, systems are introduced, they soon stray from their stated purpose.
The majority of sites on the Italian list seem to be unrelated to child pornography. While some do appear to relate to the images of teenagers, the vast majority of sites are related to what appears to be legal young-adult pornography. Some sites are unrelated to any type of pornography.
These include businesses or institutes outside of Italy, and discussion forums, used by tens of thousands for all purposes. While it is possible these sites had an unauthorized user briefly upload an underage image or link to such an image, the continued presence of the sites on this list likely reflects the lack of any censorship notification or appeal mechanism.
The Australian government admitted during a Senate estimates hearing that fewer than one third of its May 2009 blacklist was related to images of those under the age of 18.
During 2008, the government of Thailand added over 1100 pages to its censorship blacklist for “lese majeste” (criticizing the royal family).
Both the Australian and Thai blacklists have been going for a longer than the Italian system and are possibly substantially more corrupt as a result.
We checked the Italian censorship system against the top 1,000,000 most popular Internet domains (as measured by Alexa.com in November, 2008), together with selected blacklists from other countries to discover a portion of those sites censored by Italy. Botique sites and sites only recently popular do not appear in our list due to limitations in our methodology. That said, our list represents an accurate, current subset of the full list.
In Italy, blocking of content is done through DNS servers – when request for blocked site is made, user is redirected to IP 18.104.22.168 instead of original address. Two nameservers involved in the blocking are 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
The list can be reproduced by using the Unix “dig” utility, using a command such as “dig @188.8.131.52 -f list +noall +answer” where “list” is a file containing list of domains to be checked (one per line). We then search for results which lead to IP 184.108.40.206, the site which displays the “censorship page”. This is a universal method, which can be applied to all DNS based blocking systems.
Landmark case? No, not really. This was a prosecution which should have never taken place in the first place. Text based publications should not be the focus of any obscenity prosecution. [Yaman Akdeniz]
A landmark case, which could have led to draconian new restrictions on what UK authors may publish on the internet – and elsewhere – has been dismissed.…
Prosecution counsel were due today to open their case against Civil Servant Darryn Walker, aged 35, of South Shields, who was accused of publishing an allegedly obscene story online. Instead, they stood up in Newcastle Crown Court this morning and informed the judge that they would be offering no evidence. A statement may follow.
The story in question was published around two years ago on Alt Sex Stories Text Repository, a US-based archive of erotica which currently hosts around 400,000 stories of every shape, size and interest. Entitled Girls (Scream) Aloud, it focussed on the rape, mutilation and murder of the popular group Girls Aloud for – presumably – purposes of sexual arousal.
The Daily Star reported it to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) on the grounds that it could be criminally obscene, and the IWF referred the case to the police. Walker was arrested and charged. His trial was originally set for March of this year, but was delayed as both he and the prosecuting authorities decided to escalate the stakes by briefing top-notch barristers – Queen’s Counsel – to put their arguments.
The significance of this result cannot be underestimated. In the UK, the last major prosecution of a purely written work was for Inside Linda Lovelace in 1976. Following the failure of the jury to condemn that work as obscene, the Met Police backed off from prosecutions of wholly written material, expressing the belief that when it came to literature, if that work was not obscene, “nothing was”.
Clearly, a successful prosecution would have overturned a 30-year presumption against prosecuting authors for purely written material, and potentially opened the floodgates to a spate of prosecutions against online authors.
That genie now appears well and truly back in the bottle – although the fallout from this case is likely to be much wider, and to have a number of quite important consequences for the law and how written material is policed in the UK.
In a statement to The Register this morning, a spokesman for the Met said: “It was felt that the content of the material and the fact that it made reference to a band popular with young people who may search on the internet for information about them made this case worthy of consideration for prosecution and officers worked closely with the CPS throughout every stage of the investigations.”
Had the case gone to trial, your correspondent was due to give evidence on precisely the point made by the Met: at the time that the case first broke, one issue that became immediately very clear was just how difficult it was to find the site by chance. “Girls Aloud” by itself returns over two million Google hits – and the term needs refining using a range of very non-innocent words before you stand any chance of finding this story.
In effect, the more famous the target of a story, the more people who may be looking for them – but also, the harder it is to find any given story about them. ®
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
European Commission calls for an open, independent and accountable governance of the internet: “(RAPID)
The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, has called for more transparency and multilateral accountability in the governance of the internet. At present, a private US-based body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN ), is responsible for coordinating key elements of the internet. The Commission agrees that private companies should continue to take the lead in the day-to-day management of the operation of the internet, as long as they are accountable and independent. The Commission also believes that decisions about the internet, especially those about openness and security, should be taken in a transparent and accountable manner because they affect everyone around the globe. ICANN currently operates under a Joint Project Agreement with the US Department of Commerce which expires on 30 September 2009. In the view of the European Commission, future internet governance arrangements should reflect the key role that the global network has come to play for all countries. Commission Communication ‘Internet governance: the next steps’ COM(2009) 2007.
(Via QuickLinks Update.)
Published: 2009/06/28 21:29:11 GMT
Swiss police say they have uncovered an internet child pornography network spanning 78 countries and involving at least 2,000 IP internet addresses.
An inquiry was launched after a tip-off from Interpol about a website based in Switzerland being used as a forum for illegal child pornography films.
The site was officially devoted to hip hop music but was used to access videos of child pornography via secret codes.
The site designer was unaware of how it was being used, Swiss media report.
“ It is the biggest concern of its kind dismantled in Switzerland ”
Jean-Christophe Sauterel Police spokesman in Vaud
Swiss federal police spokeswoman Eva Zwahlen said the authorities had been monitoring the website in the south-western canton of Vaud, the Associated Press reports.
She confirmed a Swiss newspaper report that the investigation involved people from the US, Poland, Greece and other countries.
Jean-Christophe Sauterel, a police spokesman in Vaud, told Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche that it was “the biggest concern of its kind dismantled in Switzerland”.
According to the newspaper, dozens of arrests and several convictions have been made as a result of the investigation, which began in May 2008.
Speaking about suspected users of the illegal material in Switzerland, Mr Sauterel said none of them were based in Vaud itself.
The website’s owner told the newspaper of their shock at being told by police about how it had been used illegally.
The site’s designer was not aware what it was being used for and was cleared of any involvement in the ring, police were quoted as saying by AFP news agency.