I put out the call to stop SOPA, and one Twitter friend wrote back:
Good luck! We have it in Denmark. First blocking chi1d pr0n, then pharmaceuticals, & now Grooveshark.
I asked if he wouldn’t mind writing up a little bit more on that, and he complied. Thanks, Internet Friend from Denmark, for the real life cautionary tale!
Here’s a quick rambling on the status of DNS blocking (that’s what techies are calling it, the official name is “The chi1d pr0nography filter”) in Denmark.
Some years ago there was a heated debate as politicians wanted to introduce a “chi1d pr0nography filter” on the web, to filter out said content. It would be implemented by passing a law requiring all Danish ISP’s to redirect certain IP addresses to so called filter pages – basically a white page with a big red “STOP” sign, explaining the purpose of the filter.
There was an outcry by techies, both on the philosophical level as well as on the technical level – really, how hard is it to change your DNS settings to 126.96.36.199? Politicians like to enact laws though, so said was done. It didn’t last long till the discussion reheated as a Danish site hosting manga pr0n had been blocked. Another one hosted cartoon pr0nography using the Simpsons characters (which, technically, are underage). So what is pr0n exactly? Does cartoon pr0n go under the law? Apparently it does. Not to mention the problems when a given shared hosting provider is DNS blocked, even though just a single site violates the filter.
No warning is given up front. If, for any reason, chi1d pr0n was to appear on my blog – through XSS, hacking, whatever, all my visitors would be facing a big “STOP – This site is hosting chi1d pr0n”. As you can imagine, undoing the ban is no simple procedure and the damage will have been done way before that.
A couple of months ago they expanded the filter to include pharmaceutical sellers on the web. Sure, most, if not all of them, sell bogus drugs that may or may not be harmful to you. But really, how is this related to chi1d pr0n? The filter was only written to law on the basis of blocking chi1d pr0n, certainly not pharmaceutical drugs. Fast forward to today, they now want to block Grooveshark as it’s an illegal (in Denmark) MP3 hosting service. And given that Spotify just started paying licenses in Denmark (and are thus legal), they think we have enough legal options for a ban to make sense. Grooveshark – chi1d pr0n, you see the resemblance, right?
If you go to our biggest ISP’s website description of the chi1d pr0n filter (http://postmaster.tdc.dk/publish.php?dogtag=f5_ms_po_po_filt), you see plenty references to the name “chi1d pr0n filter”, but none whatsoever of pharma, drugs, MP3s or the likes thereof.
Where’s the limit? Drugs are bad, mmmkay. MP3s are bad, mmmkay. What about non-mainstream political opinions? It’s just a matter of time, I fear.
And just to clear up my own, as well as the opinion of all techies in Denmark – None of us mind the prosecution of anyone dealing with chi1d pr0n, nor do we mind the closure of servers hosting said content – this is just not the way to do it as it’s too easy to affect the innocent as well as too easy to extend the filter.
Jen here. This is exactly what we’re afraid of here. Good luck, man. Good luck all of us.