March 7, 2012 | By Jillian York

This Week in Censorship: Blocking Sites in Denmark and Tajikistan

Danish Police Accidentally Block 8,000 Sites

For years, Denmark has continued to block websites hosting sexually abusive images of children. In a recent attempt to do so, Danish police accidentally censored thousands of websites for several hours, including Google and Facebook. Visitors to the blocked sites were met with a page stating that the sites had been made inaccessible by the country's High Tech Crime Unit.

Observers have questioned how a list of 8,000 sites were accidentally blacklisted without oversight. Denmark's IT-Political Association has issued a statement (in Danish) calling for ISPs to cease cooperation with the voluntary scheme, typically used to block child sexual abuse content. According to a report from TorrentFreak, the group stated: “Today’s story shows that the police are not able to secure against manual errors that could escalate into something that actually works as a ‘kill switch’ for the Internet.”

Tajikistan Goes After Facebook

Never a heavy censor of online content, Tajikistan has reportedly blocked Facebook along with two local news sites. They blocked the sites for hosting articles critical of President Imomali Rakhmon, who has been in power since 1992. One of the three blocked sites, Russian news website zvezda.ru, published a piece entitled "Tajikistan on the eve of revolution." According to local ISPs, the shutdown was ordered by the state communications service. Users who attempted to access the sites were subsequently re-directed to their ISP's home page.

In the past year, Tajik journalists have faced retaliatory attacks and debilitating lawsuits, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Along with reports of a crackdown on religious groups and the latest news of web censorship, these suggest that the Tajik government is feeling threatened in the lead-up to the 2013 elections (which, if Rakhmon wins, would secure him seven more years as president).

Despite a history of press censorship in Tajikistan, Article 30 of the country's constitution provides that "state censorship and prosecution for criticism are forbidden." As such, EFF calls upon the Tajik government to protect the dual rights to free expression and information.

Uznews Suffers DDoS Attack

In neighboring Uzbekistan where censorship runs rampant, a news siteUznews.nethas reported suffering a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, forcing the site temporarily offline, Uznews later reported.

Such attacks are used in a number of contexts, from the attacks targeting Visa and Mastercard in the wake of their payment blocks to WikiLeaks, to attacks like this one, that target small independent news sites. In respect to the latter, EFF is currently working on a project that will help at-risk website owners with few resources to navigate the selection of a host, and to give them step-by-step instructions on warding off or mitigating the effects of DDoS attacks. Keep your eyes on this space for more information.


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