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Germany Moves to Block Child Porn Sites

Not As Easy As It Sounds, ASACP's Joan Irvine Says

Germany Moves to Block Child Porn Sites

BERLIN, Germany -- A new law approved Wednesday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet will block child porn websites.

The legislation still must pass the German parliament, but once put into force, will allow federal police to compile daily surveys of child porn sites and then pass those lists to Internet service providers, which then would initiate blocks on banned sites.

German ISPs with 10,000 or more subscribers -- about 97 percent of the market - will be subject to the law's provisions.

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The new law also will enable law enforcement agencies to pursue offenders.

The law is similar to legislation passed in the UK, Italy and Scandinavia, reports news service DPA.

German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg called the move "an important, a decisive signal" as the government seeks to "protect children and dry out the child pornography market.'"

However, while full of good intentions and commendable, Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection CEO Joan Irvine questions how effective the law actually will be.

"ASACP wishes that all child porn sites could easily be blocked," Irvine told AVN.com. "But when such sites are caught, they just change URLs within hours. It's disconcerting since it is so dynamic. Plus, the criminals who run the commercial CP sites are tech-savvy and misuse non-CP sites. They also use what appear to be CP sites for phishing."

The German law acknowledges its own flaws, admitting both sites and users will find ways to circumvent blocks:  "Under the current state of technology access to child pornographic content cannot be completely prevented, despite providers' blocking measures," the document draft states.

As of last week, five German ISPs had agreed to block child porn sites, mirroring similar moves in Britain, the U.S. and other nations that attempt to block such sites.

According to Irvine, 90 percent of the commercial child porn is distributed by organized crime in the Eastern European Bloc countries, with 5 percent from Japan.

"More CP is distributed in chat rooms, P2P, IM, bulletin boards than through sites," Irvine told AVN.com. "Therefore, we still believe that the best way to eliminate CP is to use a digital watermark-- a hashed value -- to identify and delete CP images. The technology is available to do this."

The bill also includes an option for ISPs to pass on information about users attempting to access blocked sites. That section of the law has met with opposition from privacy and data protection groups, which claim it could turn "completely innocent people into suspects."

Data protection officer Thilo Weichert said users could become liable by unknowingly attempting to access a blocked site.

Irvine also wonders how the German government will be able to provide daily lists of child porn sites that are constantly changing or masking URLs and attempting to avoid immediate detection.

"Even with ASACP's CP reporting hotline and 13 years of expertise, we can only legally state that we forward suspect CP to law enforcement and NCMEC," she told AVN.com. "[Official agencies] are the ones who have to do the additional research and make the final decision. This does not happen in a day. Because of this, I am concerned that legitimate sites will be incorrectly blocked and users will be incorrectly tagged. This recently occurred in Australia, where even Wikipedia was blocked."

 






Related Content:

Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP)
Joan Irvine
Edward Duncan

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