Only 1.7% of sites blocked by Scandinavia's "child-porn" filters are actually child porn

Christian sez,
Germany's working group against censorship, AK Zensur, has analysed a few recent Scandinavian blacklists, allegedly meant to block sites containing child abuse material. Our less-than-surprising findings:

* From 167 listed sites, only 3 contained such material.
* Two of them were listed on different blacklists since 2008, obviously without the authorities trying to take the sites offline.
* All three were taken down by the hosting providers within hours or even minutes after receiving an AK takedown request by email.

So what were the reasons again that made access blocking an essential weapon in fighting child abuse?

Blacklists of Denmark and Sweden analysed (PDF)

Press release: "Access Blocking means looking away instead of acting"

(Thanks, Christian!)


  1. Is anyone surprised?

    I think anyone that uses such excuses such as the one above or others like terrorism to pass a hidden agenda are as bad or worse than those they are making excuses about.

    Every time something like this is made the people responsible should be asked publicly if they are going to use it exclusively for what ever they are stating it will be used for and will they ever use it for something else.

  2. I interviewed Kripos, the Norwegian criminal police, about the filter in 2007. They said I was the first journalist to ask critical questions. Kripos is the driving force behind this system internationally, and since being introduced with promises of being optional etc. it has been made stricter and stricter. None of the Norwegian newspapers have even bothered to criticise the filter. In the interview, it is clear that Kripos is not a very intelligent organization, and that they have not taught about any of the problems this filter raises, or how it might actually increase child porn.

    Interview with Kripos, through Google translate

    Also, see:

  3. 1.7% huh? I wonder what percentage of people on the “no fly” lists are actual terrorists. I wonder what percentage of items routinely confiscated at airports could really be used to hijack or blow up a plane. The problem is that the people who support these indiscriminate and draconian measures don’t care that the percentages are small. Their attitude is that if even a single website containing child porn is taken down, or if even a single terrorist or dangerous item is kept off a plane, it’s all worth it.

    You’re never going to convince these people of the foolishness of their approach by pointing out how tiny the percentages are. In fact, this is likely to backfire and convince these people that they’re not doing enough, and that even tougher measures are needed. In order to fight these moronic and illiberal policies it isn’t enough to point out their ineffectiveness: You have to work to change the underlying attitudes that produce them. You’ve got to reeducate people, and find some way to convince them that the benefits of living in an open society far outweigh its dangers. You’ve got to re-instill in people the basic liberal values that are the foundation of modern Western civilization: respect for the individual, limits on the powers of the state (especially its police powers), a commitment to due process and freedom from arbitrary rule, the presumption of innocence, the fundamental “right to be let alone” (as Brandeis so eloquently put it), and the freedom to essentially do as you please without harassment or restraint so long as what you’re doing “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” (as Jefferson even more eloquently put it). Until people learn to embrace these values once again, we’ll continue to be stuck with foolish and illiberal policies that end up doing more harm than good.

    1. You say, “Their attitude is that if even a single website containing child porn is taken down, or if even a single terrorist or dangerous item is kept off a plane, it’s all worth it.”

      Problem is, not a single site is ever taken down. They’re simply hidden from Scandinavian eyes, so that the citizens in these countries can go on pretending everything is alright. The victims continue to be victimized, and producers of child porn continue to produce. The only difference is that Scandinavians don’t know about it and will not do anything to stop it.

    2. “I wonder what percentage of people on the “no fly” lists are actual terrorists.”


      i’m pretty sure that they’ve said repeatedly that they don’t put actual terrorists on the list because then said terrorists would know they were on it and being watched…

      i know. it makes my head hurt too.

  4. That was pretty damning. If I had guessed the percentage hit rate for this list yesterday I would have said at least 60%. This goes to show that just implementing a list like this is rather contra-productive and if we want to have an actual benefit from it we need to follow up any and all information on the list periodically.

  5. Wait… if 1.7% of the blocked websites contain(ed) childporn, what do the other 98.3% of websites contain?

    Ah the PDF makes it clear: most of the websites are deleted or the domain doesn’t resolve.
    A few of them (about 5%) are legal pornography websites.

    Nice going censors.

    1. 1) So, some 40% of the blocked URLs weren’t resolved or 404’d, 55% already had their content deleted (I’m not sure what “Deleted Content” on page 2 means).

      Then 95% of the URLs that were blocked wouldn’t/couldn’t have shown child porn to the user, since they would never have seen it in the first place. And not blocking them would have made NO difference. Of the remaining 5% that were blocked, two-thirds had legal content. Yeesh.

      2) As the linked-to PDF states:
      Three domains were found to contain illegal child abuse images.
      • Two of these have been on the Danish blacklist since 2008 and were also blocked in Norway, Finland and Sweden. After sending an abuse message to the hosting provider in the USA, the websites were removed in less than 30 minutes. This suggests that the police did nothing to shut these sites down for about two years.
      •One domain has been on these blacklists since about spring 2010, in the TLD .in (India), hosted in the Netherlands. The domain was suspended by the Indian domain name registry three hours after a request was sent.

      If the site-hosting agencies were so eager to take the sites down, just by asking (by email!) (no court order required!), why didn’t the agencies which implemented the filters do this? Er, so that these sites could keep supplying child porn to the rest of the world? Gah!

      1. “why didn’t the agencies which implemented the filters do this?”

        At risk of sounding overly cynical (and overly metaphoric), the police need criminals. What happens to a dam when its river runs dry? We’ll either take it down or just abandon it. As long as there are three legitimate child porn sites on its list, the agency can be the bold hero that is protecting the frail minds of Scandinavia against a great (underage and nude) evil.

  6. Stated purpose is not legitimate, merely an excuse to make us swallow the bitter pill of censorship. Then they take the rest. Dissenting politics, maker sites, medical information, all only for the overlords!

  7. It can’t be pointed too many times: use the words “child porn” and “internet” in the same sentence, and most people will loose all sense of proportion and let you impose any draconian measures you would like to invent.

    In addition to the useless blacklist policies, Sweden also has a “viewing law” – wich means that simply viewing certain images, even just by mistake, is a criminal offence.
    Recently, a renowned swedish manga publisher and translator was convicted under this law, for looking at some hentai cartoons. Just drawings, no “real people” involved – or so we think, because the catch 22 is that it is now illegal to view these images, so of course nobody is allowed to look at the evidence, wich has all been classified.

    I don’t think it takes a genious to figure out what’s at the end of this slippery slope.

  8. This is sad. I always saw Sweden and Denmark as two of the freest nations in the world. Countries where social movements had reduced the power of the church so the squeamishness that most western cultures have about sex was less prevalent. Places where a strong welfare state, unions, and functioning social democracy meant that corporate power was kept in check. Places where “think of the children” would mean providing excellent childcare, health-care, education, etc, not restricting youth sexuality. Guess I overestimated the freedom of the north.

    1. Free? Sweden and Norway are indeed very fascist on many levels. I recommend the book The New Totalitarians by Roland Huntford.

      1. Fascist? The Pirate Bay is located in Sweden. I recommend any books that praises Olof Palme.

        Roland Huntford is a corporate libertarian who has no idea why:
        1) Sweden ranks so high on the income equality index
        2) He has no idea why Finland’s state-runned education system is #1.
        3) No idea why Norway is one of the greenest countries in the world. Here’s a clue: Who is the biggest shareholder of Statoil?

  9. I think the title of this post is misleading. The report says that whilst 1.7 percent of the sites did currently host child abuse images, the vast majority of the rest had been taken down in one way or another.

    When these urls went on to the blacklist they could well have contained illegal content. The fact that they don’t host anything at all now is neither here nor there. In fact you could say the police had in the most part been doing their job properly by taking the sites off the Internet completely.

    The 1.7% of sites that did remain is clearly a distressing finding because it implies that the police hadn’t sent takedown requests and had just swept the matter under the carpet without investigation.

    I’m not a fan of censorship, because the fear is that by creating a mechanism to stamp out material that we all want rid of we make it easier for governments and corporations to censor legitimate critics. However, you shouldn’t come away from reading this report thinking that the majority of sites that got onto this blacklist got there unfairly because it just doesn’t say that.

  10. That means that over 1% of the Scandinavian Peninsula’s chillin’s has been saved! Sheesh, isn’t anything good enough for you people!?

  11. Sorry but that’s just misrepresenting the facts.

    Only 3.6% of the domains in question were up and running and had legal content. 95% of the sites were offline or deleted. Does anyone _really_ think that _none_ of those sites had child porn on them at any point in time?

    An accurate statement would be to say that 3.6% of the sites on the list were not currently showing child porn. But don’t pretend to know what the hell was on the other 95% percent. You don’t.

  12. Alex_M, I think you taken the wrong lesson from your facts. The point is that there is currently a process that has successfully removed over 95% of the objectionable content with no need to create a blacklist-censorship protocol. It also appears that simply sending an email to the right person gets the objectionable material removed within hours. Given this, Alex, there is no justification for your support of the useless filters.

  13. I am into the ‘Grannies’ or ‘Mature’ categories. Now I know why I encountered a Swedish blocking page a few days ago.

  14. “Stated purpose is not legitimate, merely an excuse to make us swallow the bitter pill of censorship. Then they take the rest. Dissenting politics…”

    This is already beeing done in Finland.
    At least one website that critisized the Child Porn blocking list ended up on the list themselves.

  15. And here in Australia, our government is citing these countries as shining examples of why we need to implement Internet censorship as well.


  16. While I am not into any kind of pornography very much, I do surf the web a lot (way too much, yes) including participating in several underground and/or off colour forums. And I click links like there is no tomorrow. My oh my do I click links, hundreds in a day I guess. You have a link? I will click. I have been doing this since the mid 90s.

    Once, only once have I reached what seemed to be the filter (Norwegian version).

  17. Cory, thanks for spreading the word :)

    Right, Alex_M, so we don’t know whether many of the now-empty sites did contain offensive material at some point in the past. But fact is, now they don’t, and even if I’d consider blacklisting an option (which for a wide range of reasons I don’t), I’d at least expect them to be kept up-to-date.

    As an additional piece of info, here’s an interesting open letter on the topic depicting the victims’ perspective on web blocking:


  19. Oslo has Europe’s largest open heroin scene, and triple the overdoses of the Netherlands…. They are hesitating to implement recommended harm reduction strategies. Humanism?

    I am so sick and tired of people using Norway and Sweden as examples of perfect democracies. They are moralist, unitarian farmer cultures with extreme political correctnes. That’s what they are. They are not particularly liberal or cultivated at all.

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