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The Great Belgian Firewall and Other Assorted Stories...

Entry 1465 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

I’m in the middle of preparing a laptop for the use of the 3D animation suite that can be found on the cover disk of the July issue of Computer Shopper. It contains DAZ Studio, Hexagon 2.2, Carrara 5.1 and a couple of hundreds programs more… The only thing I can’t grope is how on Earth (this is Earth, isn’t it?) a July issue of a magazine can be found half of May in the shops in Belgium, knowing it already takes minimum a week before these magazines arrives in our little rainy country after they have been issued in their country of origin?

I’m getting all grumpy and old fashioned now, I know, but in my days, when you wanted to have the July edition, of let’s say Lui magazine (computer magazines didn’t exist yet, for the simple reason there weren’t any computers around with exception of the Johnniac and his relatives) you went to the shop the first week of July. If you were very adventurous or impatient or both you could go to the press shop the last week of June and try to ask for it, but most of the time you were informed that the magazine would only arrive the week after or thereafter…

These were the good old days when the safest place to be unmolested was the park at night because most molesters were priest or monks anyway hiding in (boarding) schools where they could have a go at the children. These were also the times when girls in the original Lui magazine still had pubic hair. Strangely enough, in Belgium, the girl’s pubic hair always was pitch-black and trimmed in an even-sided triangle

A closer look at the pictures would divulge that artists had been at work replacing any trace of female flesh by strokes of ink. This wasn’t done by a centralised Belgian censorship bureau but rather by the distributor of the magazine itself, in order to prevent the (possible) confiscation of the magazine by the Belgian authorities that had rather shady pornography laws. At high school, where I was doing my best to get a degree in communication, this was given as an example of how ambiguous rules can and will lead to censorship. The reason to censor the images was not because the Belgian authorities found Lui pornographic and thus illegal, but because there was always the theoretical possibility that one or more pictures in the current issue could be considered pornographic by a Belgian judge, which is a not quite the same. Thus Lui was censored, by its distributor, before it entered the press shops without an immediate reason to do so. Of course we all had to buy a copy of the magazine to further investigate how this censorship thing was effectuated.

Censorship is a matter of all times. In the past some Belgian Internet providers tried preventing their customers from downloading or torrenting music or movies, not because the jurisdiction told them to do so, but only because the Belgian copyright association threatened to sue them for every illegally downloaded MP3. A blind man with a broken white stick wouldn’t fall for this, but most Belgian providers, afraid for lengthy lawsuits, did shit their pants and told the copyright hobbyclub they would gladly share downloading information. Imagine Nazi Germany being beamed into today’s world and the Waffen-SS asking Internet providers to give them a list of clients who regularly visit Jewish websites or fora.

For the last couple of weeks there has been much ado about the Great Belgian Firewall. This firewall was originally set up to block illegal (child) porn websites, financial scam sites and racist or historical revisionism websites. But the very first censored site did not fall into one of these categories: www.stopkinderporno.com is a dubious site against child porn, providing information that is considered illegal in Belgium. Trying to reach it through a Belgian provider will forward you automatically to the Internetpolice (Federal Computer Crime Unit and Ecops). It is a rather cynical situation and up till today it is not really sure if the Belgian providers are applying the DNS-block on a voluntary basis or because a court order has obliged them to do so. Even in a democratic country like Belgium it is sometimes hard to get the right information.

What bothers me is that the providers don’t even have the guts to inform their clients and refuse to make an official statement about big brother’s latest escapade. If this proves something it is how frail democracy is and how capitalistic powers react when they have the choice between democracy and profit.

Anyway, conform to the Belgian official guidelines of mediocrity; it only takes a few clicks to bypass the firewall, an action that is still not considered illegal, while it lasts. But why doesn't that reassure me?

In my house alone my Internet connection is at least monitored and logged 3 times by my provider. Telenet installed a D-Link switch that has a built-in firewall, logging (and directing) all incoming and outgoing traffic. I'm pretty sure about this because I have exactly the same model linking my home network to theirs. The firewall has the ability to ‘phone home’ whenever an alert takes place. I use it all the time.

The Telenet switch hangs next to the Telenet cable-modem that splits television signals from the Internet. Surely it must have logging capacities as well. The cable-modem has a wire that goes through the outside wall and connects to a box hanging outside under my roof. That box is probably a splitter that divides the data to and from the different houses in my street. In order to do that it must remember who is visiting what and where...

Even if I bypass the great Belgian firewall my provider keeps logs from what I’m doing. And it doesn’t reassure me a bit that Telenet, and all the other Belgian providers, are willing to share these logs with anybody who simply ask for it.

And now a little treat for those who have read this post till the end.
Shark, from Shark’s Lagoon, has made a new version of Secret Fantasy Dreams (part 2)...
Chaotic has made a successor for Virtually Date Crystal, called Virtually Date Girls
That last will get some attention for this blog later on if all goes well and if the great Belgian Firewall allows me to link to the game in question…

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Annual Easter Rant (2009)