Finnish Court OKs Censorship Of Anti-Censorship Site

Government entities are irony-proof, especially those most humorless of government entities — the censors. Case in point: the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court has decided that the Finnish police did nothing wrong when it added an anti-censorship site to its blacklist.

Getting from point A to point Z is mildly tangled and somewhat humorous, especially from a distance (i.e. not being the site’s owner). Here’s what happened. In 2006, the Finnish government enacted legislation that added sites distributing child pornography to a national block list. All well and good, except that, as most censorship efforts do, it also blocked some sites not distributing child porn.

One Finnish citizen decided to track the sites which were being blocked illegally.

As the process of blocking the sites is done in secret and the list of blocked sites has never been officially made public, an individual, Matti Nikki, decided to create a site called (translates as child porn dot info) criticizing the secretive process and the fact that there’s no way to make an official complaint about one’s site being listed on such block list. He also hosted on his site a list of sites known to be on the list, but didn’t contain any child porn material whatsoever.

So, as government agencies do, it assumed a site with “child porn” in the name hosted child porn. It also looked at the URLs contained on Nikki’s site, compared them with its own list, and decided he was linking to child porn. Bang. Onto the list he went.

Nikki sued the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) for including his non-child-porn-hosting site on its block list. The first decision went his way, but not because he wasn’t hosting illegal content.

[T]he Administrative Court of Helsinki ruled that inclusion of his site was illegal on the grounds that the block list was meant to block only sites hosted outside Finland (whereas Nikki’s site was hosted and maintained in Finland).

But the higher court stepped in and overruled that decision, using an amazing amount of terrible logic.

The court found that as Nikki listed the links to the sites that are known to be included in the censorship list, his site was aiding people to find them. It found that even the fact that Nikki’s site contained material that was clearly legal (articles criticizing the censorship legislation), the interests of the children must come before freedom of speech. It also stated that if it were to rule Nikki’s site legal on the grounds that it hosts legal material, other child porn sites could also circumvent the legislation by adding non-child porn material to their sites.

That’s how that works out. No one bothered to verify whether all the sites on NBI’s list contained child porn — it was just assumed they did and that Nikki’s linking was illegal. Why? The second sentence explains it all.

“…the interests of children must come before freedom of speech…”

A completely legal site, one that pointed out errors in the NBI’s block list, was shut down for the children. Nice. And then the court went even further claiming that if it ruled in favor of Nikki, existing child porn sites could attempt to be taken off the block list simply by adding legal content. If that’s the case, the block list is a complete sham. Either a site hosts child porn or it doesn’t. If a site hosts child porn but adds an unrelated blog, it still hosts child porn. If that’s the standard for the block list, enforce it.

A site that doesn’t host child porn, but points to other sites being wrongfully censored, STILL DOESN’T HOST CHILD PORN. Enforce the rule. Don’t contort the rule just to shut down a site that criticizes NBI’s overblocking and then claim the censorship effort is in the “interest of children.”

If you’re against sloppy filtering efforts, you’re for abusing kids. That’s the message this sends.

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