The Dutch ministry of Homeland security is working on a plan to control Internet traffic in The Netherlands. The government wants to be able to block all content they deem unacceptable. The plan goes under the banner of fighting Child pornography and who are we to oppose that noble cause!
The plan comes from liberal minister and former justice Fred Teeven after earlier government censoring plans for the Internet have failed. The failed plan was based on DNS filtering, a system that would have redirected illegal internet URL’s to police servers. The idea was that Dutch ISP’s would reconfigure their DNS servers in order to redirect traffic the goverment declared illegal. The main problem with DNS based censoring and monitoring schemes is that they are very easy to circumvent, because people can just use uncensored foreign DNS servers like the popular openDNS. Another problem was in the execution of the plan, only one ISP was willing to act as a government censor henchman (Liberty Global's UPC). There were also legal issues as it was unclear if these government actions were legal under Dutch law. But on a more basic level, it was one of the Dutch government’s least effective bureaucracies, the Dutch National Police, that failed in setting up an adequate censoring list. The result was that former justice minister Hirsch-Ballin (CDA) aborted his censoring program based on DNS filtering and instead sponsored a plan for self-censorship by Dutch ISP’s (also based on DNS filtering).
Now the DNS censoring system has failed, the Dutch Homeland Security department is investigating how to control the Dutch internet. Today they declared to the Dutch tech news website Webwereld that they are investigating a deep packet inspection (DPI) solution to monitor and control all Dutch internet traffic (NL). This means that all Dutch internet traffic will have to travel through government controlled nodes, a system similar to systems used in Iran, China and other totalitarian states.
The obvious problem with this system is that DPI cannot monitor encrypted traffic like secure websites. Thus unless the government also plans to build a system like the Great Firewall of China, this system will also be ineffective in censoring the Dutch internet.
Let’s hope this is just the result of general incompetence rather than careless contempt for basic freedoms. Although one could argue that is does not matter to much, as both are a threat to our basic freedoms.
More news about the censor ship plan (NL): The plan seems to be requested in parliament by the former Marxist Socialist Party (SP) with support of the government party Christian Democrats (CDA) who support the idea. Fred Teven his liberal party is now in disarray about this issue. The other government party, Geert Wilders his Party For Freedom has not yet reacted on the censorship plans.