Thursday, February 14, 2008

Finnish Censorship

I don't generally read Digg much, but one story did jump out at me today: A censorship critic in Finland has been, well, censored by the Finnish police's child-porn censorship barrier.

There isn't anything remotely like child porn ON the site, naturally, but it's being blocked anyway because it promulgates positions that the Finnish equivalent of the FBI, apparently, is none too fond of.

There's a good breakdown (oddly enough) on Wikinews:

The Finnish police have added Finnish hacker Matti Nikki's website criticizing Internet censorship to Finland’s new national child porn filter. The blacklisting was noticed when Finland's second largest Internet service provider Elisa started blocking the page today. More of the ISP's are expected to join the filtering when their blacklists are updated from the police's master list.

The banned site has been a harsh critic of Internet censorship over the last three years. It contains information and news about how censorship has been discussed and developing in Finland. Although the site's provocative name is ("") there is no child porn on the site - the content is mainly text.

Tekniikka & Talous magazine asked Commissioner Lars Henriksson of Finland's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) why the page was censored. His answer was that he cannot discuss individual sites, but said that sites which are linking to child porn pages are also within the scope of the law. This interpretation, however, seems to conflict with the actual laws, the scope of which was supposed to be only sites with illegal pictures in foreign countries.

On Wednesday, NBI confirmed that site was censored because it published and maintained an incomplete version of the Finnish child porn blacklist. Nikki's list contained roughly two-thirds of the 1500 blacklist entries, and it was created by scanning a large amount of sites and logging the censored pages.

The scan also found that the top three results of a Google search for "gay porn" are blacklisted, and that most of the blocked sites are actually physically located in the United States or the European Union.

Leena Romppainen of Electronic Frontier Finland commented that "The local authorities have taken no action on these sites. Therefore, either the sites do not contain child pornography or the NBI has not informed the local authorities. Both of the alternatives are equally scary."

Matti Nikki's opinion is that the majority of the censored sites are legal adult sites and that the police are not doing that much research when they are deciding which sites to block.

Internet censorship has been a hot topic in Finland as of late. There have been proposals of extending Internet filtering to Internet gambling sites, sites related to terrorism and violence, and torrent-tracker The Pirate Bay.
None of this is novel, even if it is noteworthy. Just as those who chatter about "responsible speech" are always complaining about how they're being called fascists and political censors and whatnot, freedom of speech advocates have been constantly associated with whatever's most odious in the society they live in: child porn, holocaust denial, atheism, heresy, perversities and taboos of all kinds.

(You'd hope that official bodies wouldn't be responsible for it, but it's a faint hope at best. Guilt-by-association is too handy a tool, so there will always be handy tools trying to employ it.)

This guy's situation confirms the fears of free speech advocates, though. He isn't just being argued against or censured, he's being quite literally censored by the government- under the most despicable of false pretenses. Judging by the wiki story, he's unlikely to be alone in this, either, as everybody from torrent users to poker players get conveniently lumped in with the pedophiles.

And why not? Why not associate everything inconvenient with societal taboos? It's so much easier! You don't need to debate anything, don't need to advocate anything, don't have to worry about possibly losing face... you can absolutely, 100% guarantee that anything these guys say will be ignored. After all, they're on the pedophile list! Might as well lock 'em up, because if they weren't kiddy-diddlers, why would they be on the list, right?

(I can't wait to see who's next. Labor organizers? Radical environmentalists? Minority activists? Who else is going to end up on the Finnish diddler's list?)

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