Considerations Concerning Blockades

What happens if you try to break a bomb-proof network

On July 23, 1998, the swiss Federal Police (Bundespolizei, commonly reffered to by its abbreviation "BUPO") has sent a letter to about 100 swiss Internet-Service Providers demanding blockage of ten Webpages containing revisionist, reactionist material from Neonazis, Antisemits and so on. This letter is available here. I will not go into a political or juridical discussion here whether these sites need to be censored or not, but simply take a look whether it is actually possible to block sites which contain "unpleasant" material.

Well then, let's take a look at possible methods of blocking.

Not surprising the whole issue has given rise to several methods of countermeasures against such blockades.

Of course, there are other, non-technical implications of attempts to censor, most noteably relocating the server out of jurisdiction to a place with "friendlier" law. But this won't be covered here, we solely took a look at technical possibilities. In the end we have to admit that blocking sites is of no use and very costly. To block a dozen sites, a system administrator will surely need at least an hour, which is going to be very costly if hundreds of sites should be blocked. On the other hand, defeating the blocks is a matter of seconds, and in case of heavy mirroring being done, not only a circumvention but also increases cost on side of the censor (the BUPO in above case) and on side of the ISPs which have to do the blocking. In the end, nothing is done against the sites containing the to be censored material, but instead a lot of money will be wasted, the hate-groups will still flourish (or alternatively the child-pornography traders) and we all loose.

Peter Keel, August 3, 1998
Updated April 14, 1999

"The more prohibitions there are, The poorer the people will be" -- Lao Tse