During the month of April, the Belgian authorities decided to prevent a very controversial web-site to be accessed by Belgian citizens (read my previous post). According to ZDNet.be, the idea of a firewall is back on the table.
The article states that host or domain names could be blocked via an official procedure (primary targets are pedophilia and phishing websites). Immediately some questions popped out of my mind… Of course, I’m against any form of censorship on the Internet. The “network of networks” is just a new media with one major issue: it can spread illegal material all over the world in a few seconds or give to bad guys a huge base of targets but it never created new illegal activities. They just took a new form! For ever, people tried to steal things or to break laws. That’s part of the human behavior! To make a ugly comparison with the road traffic: Closing our highways will not prevent trucks to deliver goods in our Belgian Ardennes, it will just take more time using alternative roads.
Back to the Internet. Will this blacklist really prevent pedophiles to continue exchanging illegal material? Clearly not! Protecting our children from visiting such sites is one thing. Anyway, I’m surfing the web for years and I never found pedophilia sites via Google or any other search engines. Fighting against the sources is much more important.
And what about the work load? New illegal sites are opened and closed so quickly everyday. Who will review them and ask the Internet providers to block them? Based on which criteria, websites will be blacklisted or not? Will the list be publicly available? What will be the procedure to remove a “clean” domain name from the blacklist? On a business point of view, to be able to quickly block new websites, the ISP infrastructure could have a non negligible cost. What about the smaller ISP? Will they have some delays to implement the solution?
On a technical point of view, I suppose the blacklist will be implemented at DNS level. Where will the blacklist be hosted? By federal authorities? All Internet providers will have to sync a local copy? What if a hacker successfully injects safe domain names into the list? Bypassing your ISP DNS is so easy! The opendns.com future will be assured! And big companies who maintain their own DNS? Will they be forced to implement the blacklist? And multi-national companies with DNS servers hosted in foreign states? Personally, I’m not using my ISP DNS for years!
To conclude, if the Great Belgian Firewall is deployed, a proper communication must be done on this topic! The goal of authorities is to protect “the average joe”. But Joe has rights and duties. He must respect the laws but he must also receive information to be aware of these laws. Once again, global censorship is not the right solution. I’m an adult, I can distinguish good from bad things by myself, I don’t need someone to decide for me. Of course, if I choose the “bad”, I know the risks…