“The Great Firewall of Belgium” active

Since today, Belgium has got it’s own version of “The Great Firewall of China”. The biggest Belgian ISPs are blocking access to several web sites, often related to child porn.

The idea already existed for several months, but the implementation was probably accelerated after a Dutch guy recently created a website where he posted detailed personal information about child abusers in Belgium. While publishing such detailed private information is forbidden in Belgium, it was very difficult to take real action against the website, because it operated from abroad.

So now this website is not accessible anymore from most Belgian ISPs. People who try to access this website, get redirected to a web page which explains that the web site is not accessible because it is considered illegal in Belgium.

Technically, it’s not really a firewall. The redirection happens on the DNS level. Instead of returning the real IP of the server, the DNS servers now return the address of a server in Belgium containing the warning page.

While I agree (like every sane person) that things like child’s pornography are completely sick and should be severely acted against, I think that creating a blacklist of websites which people cannot visit any more is a very dangerous precedent. It’s not clear at all how it is decided to put a website on the blacklist. Currently this is not based on a judge’s decision after an official juridical procedure. Also how long will it take until someone makes a mistake in the list and blocks half of the Internet by error (which is not unrealistic, it happened to Google recently!), or worse, until sites of political dissidents are blocked? For this reason, I have decided to stop my internal Bind DNS server at home from forwarding its requests to my ISPs DNS and instead I let it do iterative recursion now.  I read that many others are starting to use OpenDNS now, but this seems to have privacy issues by itself too.