Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Filtering Norway: New Wine - Old Bottles?

Telnor, Norway's largest telecom group, has teamed up with the national crime investigation service KRIPOS and brings us a filter against child pornography on the internet, "which is likely to be the first of its kind in the world." This last claim is made in today's press release, which has some blunt vagueness over it.

Some quick thoughts on sections of the release:
"KRIPOS will provide lists of web sites containing child pornography, and Telenor will handle the technical management of the filter. [...] Several hundred sites containing illegal child pornography are currently registered in KRIPOS' files."
What makes this filtering "likely to be the first in the world"? Sounds a lot like old fashioned filtering on the basis of black- (and white) lists. Or do they mean that the collaboration between a private and (semi)public party is the world's first in the battle against illegal child pornography?

"The filter will be placed centrally at Telenor, and no installation at customers' computers will be required."
Well, that's a nice service. This shifts the filtering from the end-user deeper into the network, to the ISP, a more general trend. Now possible (constitutional) problems with mandated individual filtering may be circumvented, and a state actor can pro-actively stop content it deems illegal. That is, a state actor in a cooperation with a private party that does the actual filtering and claims that it "shall not exercise any form of judiciary power e.g. in evaluating the lawfulness of content distributed by others."
But doesn't it? Or is it indeed merely facilitating the (conveniently centralized) means to let KRIPOS exercise its judiciary power, which I assume it has? And who of the two is accountable, when the filtering is inaccurate?

"Telenor will be happy to share its experience and its technology with other Internet suppliers. [...] KRIPOS will distribute information about the filter through Interpol, Europol and other international forums"
This makes the idea of a centralized filtering system even more attractive. Specially since KIPROS
is "also the national administrative agency responsible for most central policing databases. This function is carried out by our ICT Division." Presumably the same ICT division that provides the blacklists?

Telenor claims to have had some good experience with filtering until now
: "we have developed a very efficient programme, KidSurf, to help parents control their children's Internet use." KidSurf seems to be a modification of the CyberPatrol filter: KidSurf "Filteret er utviklet i samarbeid med CyberPatrol" (link). CyberPatrol is a filtering system, which' black lists have been blacklisted themselves for overblocking. KidSurf is of course something else than the centralized filtering currently pursued, both in the point of implementation and content. The centralized filtering sees exclusively on the non-protected child pornography, and not on protected content. And I know, past performances are not necessarily indicative for future results, but still.

Maybe some answers will come when the filtering system is introduced next month. I'm just curious what emerges from the vagueness: a filter which is to be the first of its kind in the world, or old wine in new bottles.
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Thru p2pnet

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