Child-abuse survivors oppose EU censorwall

A recently leaked European Council proposal seeks to create a "Great Firewall of Europe," instituted to block sites that depict the abuse of children. As with other censorwalls, it's unlikely that this will performed as intended, since paedophiles will circumvent it with proxies, or by using P2P or email or private websites to trade illegal material. But the creation of a continent-wide network censorship scheme is likely to cause new problems, inviting authorities to shoehorn ever-greater slices of the net into the "illegal" category -- this has already happened in Australia and other countries that have built Chinese-style censorship regimes.

One of the most nuanced and important challenges to the EC proposal has come from MOGiS e.V, a German organization of child-abuse survivors. They've issued a statement condemning the proposal on several grounds: first, that censorship is unlikely to attain its stated goals and will create new harms, and second (and most importantly), that the EC should be turning its attention to making it easier for EU member-states and other nations to actually shut down sites that host images depicting the abuse of children.

Christian Bahls, a spokesperson for the group, says, "Blocking just hides the problem and actually lowers the police's incentive to become active. Also, going after the servers means a small chance of catching the people that put it there in the first place. Images of child abuse are outlawed all over the world. There is a global consensus that this imagery is illegal and should not be distributed (see the 193 Interpol members or the 117 signatories to the 'Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography')."

MOGiS e.V. was formed in Germany in 2009 in order to fight censorship proposals there, and now they are extending their work across the EU, along with other anti-censorship groups, to call for meaningful solutions to the abuse of children and to fight against unworkable, dangerous knee-jerk censorship proposals. Their slogan is "Remove, don't block! -- Act, and don't look away!"

Leaked EC censorship proposal (PDF)

MOGiS statement on EC proposal

(Thanks, Christian!)


  1. It figures, the people who have already gone through hell have to be the sane ones..
    Unbelievable how short sighted all these politicians seem. How utter their lack of understanding of larger issues is. How multi-year work on policy can still be as moronic as a knee jerk reaction.

    And to the MOGIS people: you know that you are strong, and you know you can affect the world! Your opinion counts, and in this matter it counts much more than mine as you are more likely to influence policy.

  2. They’re so right about this!

    I mean think about it, if you can block it, you have identified it, right?!

    So effectively the only thing you have accomplished is that people within a certain area have no access to it.

    That does absolutely nothing to prevent child abuse.

  3. I had the pleasure of working for a commercial chat-service provider for a while, with the majority of our users being in the UK. A large part of my job was banning obvious pedophiles from the service, and reporting those who attempted to trade childporn to the authorities.

    At one point, there was a small ‘childporn ring’ busted on an as-yet unmonitored service of ours. That is, a man went to get some hardware repaired and didn’t delete any porn, and was reported when the tech decided to browse his pics (a whole other issue). everybody he spoke to was then subsequently caught. most of this particular ring were in the UK, but so was most of our customer base.

    The main issue here is: these people, as a whole, didn’t create child porn. We had some who claimed to, and we threw them straight to the authorities to deal with. These people were trading or talking about insanely illegal material on a private chat site where the terms of service let you know everything was recorded and would be turned over to authorities if necessary.

    Most people are not geniuses, and pedophiles, for the most part, are regular people. They have unusual sexual preferences which they’ve learned to hide, but that doesn’t make them any better at understanding how to hide them in the world of technology. I’m pretty sure that, in my time there, we had plenty of people arrested and investigated who did nothing more than fantasize about what they’d like to do to children, and would never actually try to molest one. I’m really not proud of that.

  4. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that authoriterrorists were trying to pass a surveillance bill in Brazil using the war against virtual pedophily as an excuse. It appears to be easy to hoard people into accepting surveillance with this sort of excuse, such that, once the surveillance machinery is in place, it’s reused to serve other purposes such as copyright enforcement.

    Wake up, people! The enemy of the enemy isn’t always a friend!

  5. Not to distract from the point too much, but to say “There is a global consensus that this imagery is illegal and should not be distributed” is neither substantiated nor strictly true. It is important to understand what is happening here, because it’s at the root of many of these “internet blocking” attempts.

    Most nations do agree that images of children below some age should not be used for pornographic purposes, but they do not agree on what age this is. Most settle somewhere between 16 and 18, but some go a little lower.

    Many of these censorship plans are ultimately an attempt by countries who think the age should be 18 to cut off access to material from countries who think the age should be lower (usually 16). The vast majority of the material on the internet falls into this category (legal in country of origin, illegal in country of reception). Having failed to convince other countries to agree with them, they are attempting to implement their beliefs by force.

    The problem here is that there is no particularly rational basis for picking an age, and it is really difficult to justify an “age of pornography” that is higher than the age of consent.

    1. Many of these censorship plans are ultimately an attempt by countries who think the age should be 18 to cut off access to material from countries who think the age should be lower (usually 16).

      It’s not just age. The disagreement on just what exactly constitutes child pornography in the first place doesn’t help either. Does cartoon porn count? Does manipulating a real image count? Does it count if it’s real actors who just appear to be under-age? Is it only porn if genitalia are visible? The list goes on…

  6. As a victim of sexual abuse in my teens (13+) I find the courage of child abuse victims overwhelming.

    Availability of the video of their rape is devastating, no doubt. Yet their interest in prosecuting that crime is in actual fact thwarted by allowing that crime to be blocked, especially when it only blocks the most blatant examples, equivalent to the most easily prosecuted.

    ‘Firewall’ security systems amount to sticking-thumbs-in-ears. If content is available on the web, it should be prosecuted. If instead it’s available on more secretive and indirect systems, (IRC, torrents, etc) well then that requires actual work.

    The willingness to do said work is the measure of the dedication to the stated goal.

  7. In the words of the late Michael Dobbs, when discussing whether “freedom of the press” should apply to NAMBLA:

    I believe paedophiles should be given every opportunity to publish and disseminate the details of any crime they may plan or commit. It makes them easier to find.

  8. this has already happened in Australia and other countries that have built Chinese-style censorship regimes

    It is important to draw attention to the issue, but I don’t think stating misinformation is gonna help the cause. In Australia we have an idiotic communications minister (Stephen Conroy) who is simply trying to apply his moral code (catholic conservative) to the internet. This firewall is being *debated*. We don’t have one yet and it certainly hasn’t been “Built”. But diligence is most def required to stop this moron.

    Re: the pedo issue I’m just gonna take this moment to drag Japan through the mud because about 10 years ago, due only to international condemnation, they made sale, production & trading of child porn illegal. It is still 100% legal for all the kitanai oyaji (dirty old men) to keep their collections (and if it is legal to keep, you can bet it will be traded). Clean up your act, Japan – this is not good enough.


      “Although not without controversy, the initial testing of the Australian government’s Internet filtering system has gone off fairly well, according to reports from some of the participating ISPs.”

      “The filters were originally intended to be on by default, with consumers able to opt out. Much to the dismay of the program’s critics, things changed last October. As details about the country’s Cyber-Safety Plan emerged, we learned that all “illegal” content would be blocked for everyone, with no possibility for individuals to opt out.”

      to me this suggests that blocking already has been implemented and now just is being made compulsory for all ISPs and their customers.

      1. The disproof of your suggestion is right there in the quotes you refereneced:

        “the initial testing of the Australian government’s Internet filtering system…”

        “As details about the country’s Cyber-Safety Plan emerged…”

        The government put out a call for a testing phase in 2009 where ISPs could opt-in to trial the system. This is around the time when someone leaked the supposed blacklist they are proposing.

        Even the first paragraph of the wikipedia page about the aussie filtering system tells the story as it stands presently:
        “In 2008, the Australian Labor Party introduced a policy of mandatory Internet filtering for all Australians. While the policy has not yet come into force, it has generated substantial opposition, with only a few groups in support. The Labor Party does not have enough votes in the Senate to enact any legislation to support the filter”

  9. The people politicians are trying protect, don’t want the protection. What a surprise!
    It should be a law of the land, that whenever an elected official pushes a law to “protect the children” he must immediately lose his post.

  10. Quoth the spokesperson: “There is a global consensus that this imagery is illegal and should not be distributed.” He then goes on to refer to a U.N.treaty optional protocol.

    Well, fail. He sure doesn’t help his cause when he gets such basic facts completely wrong.

    What sort of high-minded documents countries sign is frequently way different from their actual laws. In fact, child pornography is legal in most countries. Yes, it’s illegal in some Western countries and it’s illegal in places where all porn is illegal. That means the U.S. et. al.; China, India, and most Islam-influenced countries. For the majority of the world’s population, then, child porn is illegal.

    But in most *countries*, the notion of uniquely criminalizing the possession of a particular class of crime scene photos is viewed as a mere distraction. Raping kids to make the stuff is illegal everywhere. But the photos? The attitude of most countries is “Who cares?”

    See the 2006 report (the latest available) from the International Center For Missing and Exploited Children at .

  11. actual victims don’t support the ‘head in the sand’ approach, what a crazy mixed up world.

  12. Just as a short note to all of you here: if you’re living in the EU, make sure YOU TAKE ACTION. Write/Contact your members of parliament (national and EU), go to demonstrations like Freedom not Fear (I’m pretty sure there will be one this year again in all major European cities), join groups like AK Zensur or MOGIS (or at least support them in any way you can). Talk to your friends and family about this. Explain them why it endangers them too.

    Just voicing your concerns here won’t win the day for us. Defend your rights!

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