There is no denying: the Internet houses some of the most disturbing content in existence. And, there is also no denying that this content should be killed, that its spreaders should be brought to justice, and that its victims need help. Nevertheless, blockades are commonly not justified. Not just for reasons of freedom, but mostly that those blockades are only symbolic and not effective at all. In these cases, the victims deserve real prosecution of the offenders, not some measures for the public.

One of the major reasons for me to not work as a security expert for the police is that I do not want to come across the depths of the Internet. I can only assume how bad some of my former fellow students feel after cleaning up a machine with material that is abusive to children. Nevertheless, in these cases, we can be happy to have remote search as a possible means of investigation, because these competences enable the police to really get the offenders and kill all the offending material, after bringing it to court.

Politicians Stick Their Heads in the Sand
In the Netherlands, we have a figure of speech to describe the tendency to block such websites that politicians have: the politics of ostriches. In other words, blocking such websites on the level of Internet Service Providers is like sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming “I cannot hear you”.

Blocking a website does not really make it unavailable. It only makes it a bit difficult to access that website for the customers of the Internet Service Provider that installed the blockade. Customers of other providers can still access the material. Even worse, the website still exists. It just sits there and leaves the victims in the cold.

There Is No Blocking on the Internet
From the copyright battles, we already know this important fact: there is no blocking on the Internet. There are always paths around a blockade, such as switching provider or communicating through a machine on the other side of the world.

Actually, the most awful corners of the Internet are commonly available through TOR, which is a system for anonymous communication used by, for example, dissidents in dictatorial countries. This system makes it possible to completely hide who you are and where you are from, which makes a blockade impossible. Please do not get me wrong, TOR is a wonderful thing that helps human rights activists, but, then again, Nobel experienced the same abuse with his invention, dynamite.

In the end, killing evil requires that the police uses remote search competences. This allows them to find the physical location of the server, even when it is on TOR, and prosecute its owner. This way, the offence is really brought down, and not just hidden out of sight.

Really, Copyright?
Something I need to get of my chest is the following: claiming blockades can be put in place, because we can do so for those extreme offences is just awful. When you do so, you are actually saying: well, your child got hurt, but my source of income is important too. Those cases are not even the least comparable.

I am not saying that you are not allowed to lobby for blockades on torrent websites, but I am asking you to leave the victims of the most serious offences out of it. They have had enough and deserve protection. Using their case to vouch for the protection of your cash-cow is ridiculous and hurtful.

Blockades Do Not Work
Blocking things on the Internet does not work. I can sympathise with the idea of blocking serious offences. Nevertheless, those websites still need to be searched and killed. The offenders need to be brought to justice. And, the victims brought to protection. Blocking is only a symbolic measure with very marginal effectiveness, which is like shrugging and continuing the day.

One Response to Why Serious Offences Do Not Justify Blockades

  1. […] Previously, I already mentioned Tor – formerly known as The Onion Router – as the software of choice for surfing the web anonymously. Tor is popular with political dissidents, journalists, armies, criminals and privacy-concious people. Given the possible political impacts such software has, it is important to know what it is and what not. […]

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