Five years of censorship

(The text is also available in Finnish)

(Apologies for the quick and rough translation, but I already spent five hours writing the Finnish one and I'm far too worn out to attempt a high quality rewrite in English. This open letter should summarize the situation and my feelings pretty fine anyway, better than the "censored bear" picture alone at least)

So passes the time and it's difficult to find words. As I'm writing this, five years have passed since the censorship of my website began with the child porn blacklist. The journey has been long and winding, and especially it's been tiring. I never expected I'd have to fight about this whole thing for such a long time.

I was perhaps a little bit simple minded when I thought being accused of a crime would be the worse case scenario and that I could simply defend myself in the court and it'd be the end of the story. I never expected the prosecutor to simply drop charges, nor did I expect the police to keep censoring me because I hadn't been charged and thus hadn't been proven to be innocent. After this confusing turn of events I demanded my site to be removed from the blocklist and complained to the administrative court because the police had refused my demand. Surprisingly, the administrative court ruled that I had no right to complain at all, something the supreme administrative court later overturned returning the case back to the administrative court. Right now the case has been again in the supreme administrative court for a year and half since the police complained after they lost the second round in the administrative court.

There isn't a single legally effective ruling yet about the censorship situation even though the whole ordeal has been underway for over five years. The only ruling whatsoever is that I actually do have a right to have my case presented to a court, a right I thought to be an obvious human right but something I had to take to the courts twice (and pay twice) to actually have.

Originally I had created because I thought these insane blocklists were being considered only because somebody believed they would solve some problems. Somebody had to tell the truth to the decision makers, but this turned out to be a fruitless operation because the lawmakers weren't interested in the reality. There wasn't any incentive to actually protect the children or to produce results, the whole thing was running for image and publicity reasons and to drive political careers forward. The decision to implement the censorship had already been made and any views by its opponents were thus completely ignored, and even the supporting statements were skimmed through and the best parts cherry picked to further the idea. Any mentions of unsolved problems were skipped and the problems remained unsolved.

One significant question which the legistlators had ignored was a compensation for errorneous blocking. This question might become very relevant to me if I get my website out of the censorship list anytime soon. The case has been sitting in the supreme administrative court for such a long time that I'm waiting for the decision to come anyday now. What happens afterwards remains to be seen, but because the supreme administrative court doesn't have a habit of paying any compensations whatsoever, I'll have to go seek them through other venues. I'm not exactly sure how, but I believe my lawyers will think of something.

But what exactly is a fair compensation for having the libelous and false information spread about me through mass media for several years, falsely alleging me of distributing child porn? There's even been death threats, although luckily almost a year since the last one, but I completely understand that I receive them. Afterall, anyone who tries to visit my site is greeted by the police stop page which calls my site a "child porn website" and tells that the images on the site are illegal to distribute and possess. It's fairly unambiguous and direct text which lets the reader understand that the site would have pictures of sexual abuse of children, that I'd actually distribute child porn. I tried to complain about this, but the police wasn't interested in changing the text to be truthful. I tried to have the police investigated for libel, but the prosecutor said the message isn't in any way directed to me personally, just my website, since the police never mentioned my name anywhere at all. Apparently the police considering my site to be a child porn website was "just an opinion" and not libelous. Therefore I've had to live with these false accusations floating on the net for years and had to live with the consequences of these lies, fearing the possible consequences of any misunderstandings. People have certainly been tried to kill for less than this and from time to time the situation has felt quite agonizing. Thinking about it afterwards, I probably should've reported every death threat to the police, but back then I tried to understand these people and forgive the rage that was ignited by lies of the police. Back then I thought that all this hate wasn't really directed to me, but to "a child pornography portal operator", the fictious character the police had created. However, the one suffering was the real me.

It could be that I'll never see any compensations and nobody will be held responsible for censoring my website. The whole censorship system has been built on top of the idea that nobody's ever responsible for anything; the operator only uses a list provided by the police and by right given by the law, and the police doesn't actually do any of the blocking themselves but only maintains a list, an act of including a website to the list doesn't even constitute an official decision that could be complained about. Nobody's responsible for the system, so it's unlikely that anyone would willingly pay for the damages caused by the system. I wonder how many years I'll still have to fight for this, and ultimately even if I get some money for my troubles I can't possibly think of myself as a winner after all this. But it'd sure be nice to be able to at least pay the lawyers' fees someday...

And that's not all, just last week our minister of justice wanted to extend the Internet censorship to cater more forms of pornography. Of course, out there in the world the situation is more grim, with our neighbours in the east censoring political blogs etc. Here in Finland the direction seems to be towards the demands of the copyright industry, for example a while back the Pirate Party of Finland revealed a censorship probject that had been written in form of a legistlation. Various EU directives have been processed in ministry work groups and there have been attempts to leverage possibilities provided by the directives to expand the censorship to copyright infringement. Perhaps even the Pirate Bay blocking managed to go through because Internet censorship had already been proven to be technically possible and the first ISP to fall had changed their terms of service to include a mention that they reserve right to block websites if asked to do so by the authorities.

The integrity of the Internet is at stake and the battle continues.