The Great Firewall of Belgium

Due to an official request from the federal authorities, Belgian Internet Service Providers are preventing their customers to access four very-controversial URLs (all of them pointing to the same website). When I say “controversial”, it means, regarding the Belgian law, “illegal”. This website publishes personal information about people who performed really *bad* things… No more details will be given, but Belgian readers will immediately guess the website. No comment about the blocked site. Its content is illegal, that’s it but I would like to give two comments.

First, even if the website is illegal, the technology used is clearly not bullet-proof (ISP just redirected the website to another one at DNS level). What does it mean? Belgian citizens working on a big multi-national company does not use Belgian ISP DNS servers. Other citizens might use alternative DNS servers like the well-known project OpenDNS. This means that all Belgian citizens are not treated equally in this case.

Second, it proves that ISP’s can quickly react and have technical solutions ready to filter “unwanted” websites or services… It’s a very basic filter but, once again, not all citizens have the same technical background and “geeks” will continue to visit the website without problem. I think the main problem here for the authorities was a timing issue. They had to quickly block access to the website and the right way (to force the owner to shutdown the server) took too much time.

Here is a copy of the page displayed when surfing from a Belgian ISP:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Now the remaining question is: if they did it for a specific website, are they chances to see the same filtering technique applied to other online services? Think about it!

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