Sankaku Complex Banned in France: “Anime = Child Porn!”

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France’s reaction to the Islamist butchery of Charlie Hebdo staff for artwork unacceptable to Islam has been to ban Sankaku Complex in France, apparently for artwork unacceptable to the French government – with traffic from French users now being hijacked and redirected to a government warning page as part of its newly enacted internet censorship regime.

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France has finally joined such bastions of liberty as Russia, China and much of the Islamic world in opting to ban its citizens from viewing material which might harm their fragile little minds, erecting a virtual Maginot line against the evils of 2D artwork.

According to mainstream news reports, France is cracking down on Islamist attacks on freedom of expression by cracking down on freedom of expression in France, attacking sites deemed to be supporting terrorism and child pornography with blocks forced on local ISPs.

Which sites are blocked are – in the best traditions of secret police actions – secret, but Sankaku Complex is amongst them (along with Islamic State affiliated sites, perhaps illustrating the severity of the threat posed by Japanese visual culture to the Fifth Republic).

With no public scrutiny or judicial oversight of any kind, France’s attack on the free exchange of information within its borders has already been criticised as a violation of Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sadly, that hysteria over terrorism and child pornography have been yet again exploited as an excuse to implement an unaccountable Internet censorship system which can rapidly be expanded to block any content the state does not approve of is now hardly surprising, although that a zealous attack specifically designed to destroy free artistic expression has prompted those being attacked to zealously attack it themselves certainly introduces some novel irony to the situation.

Affected visitors to Sankaku Channel only received a warning message making claims that the site is hosting child pornography (such as the works of Jean-Léon Gérôme, no doubt):

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The complete text of the ministère de l’intérieur’s original block warning, which for some reason is in French:

Vous avez été redirigé vers cette page du site du ministère de l’Intérieur car vous avez tenté de vous connecter à un site comportant des images de pornographie enfantine.

Pourquoi ?
– Pour protéger la dignité des victimes des abus visibles sur ces images.
– Pour protéger les internautes et notamment les plus jeunes, afin qu’ils ne se trouvent pas confrontés à des images choquantes.
– Pour que les personnes qui tentent de visionner ces images puissent prendre conscience de la gravité de leur attirance.
– Pour lutter contre les sites qui marchandent ces images.
Cette redirection est conforme à l’article 6-1 de la loi du 21 juin 2004 pour la confiance dans l’économie numérique, modifiée par la loi du 13 novembre 2014 renforçant les dispositions relatives à la lutte contre le terrorisme.
Si vous estimez que la page bloquée n’est pas illicite, vous pouvez contester la présente décision. Pour connaître les voies et délais de recours, cliquez ici.

Votre redirection vers cette page d’information ne signifie pas que vous allez faire l’objet de poursuites judiciaires. Cependant, la pornographie enfantine et sa consultation habituelle sont interdites par la loi.
Que dit l’article 6-1 de la loi du 21 juin 2004 pour la confiance dans l’économie numérique ?

L’autorité administrative peut demander à l’éditeur ou à l’hébergeur d’un contenu pédopornographique de le retirer.
Si l’éditeur et l’hébergeur du contenu illicite refusent de le retirer ou s’ils ne sont pas joignables, l’autorité administrative peut en demander le blocage aux fournisseurs d’accès à Internet.
La liste des adresses bloquées est élaborée par des enquêteurs de la direction centrale de la police judiciaire.
Les demandes de retrait et de blocage formulées par l’autorité administrative sont contrôlées par une personnalité qualifiée et indépendante.

Que prévoit l’article 227-23 du code pénal ?
Enregistrer, copier ou diffuser une image de pornographie enfantine est interdit par loi et punissable d’emprisonnement.
Cette interdiction concerne les photographies et les vidéos et également les images de synthèse, dessins et animations.
Il suffit de consulter des images de pornographie enfantine sur Internet pour enfreindre la loi. Consulter de telles images encourage les éditeurs de pornographie enfantine à produire plus d’images.
En cas de doute sur l’âge des personnes figurant sur des images pornographiques, il ne faut pas les visualiser, ni les enregistrer.

The content that so offended the French censors as to warrant such treatment remains unknown – no warning, notification or other communication of any kind was received by Sankaku Complex from the French authorities, and no recourse has been offered.

With almost 5 million posts on the affected subdomain, almost all of which are comprised of 2D artwork legal in all but the most backwardly repressive of jurisdictions, just what exactly provoked both such a grossly indiscriminate response and Sankaku Complex now sharing a distinction formerly only enjoyed by sites advocating global jihad is a mystery.

Indeed, the first indication of any kind that the site was blocked only came in the form of complaints from French users about their inability to access the site, and their shock at being confronted by a state block in their supposedly free nation.

Other popular sites hosting 2D artwork of a not infrequently adult nature (not least Pixiv and NicoNico Seiga, as well as various related English language sites) seem to have escaped the proscription, suggesting the censors are idiots as well as fascists.

The block affects the entire Sankaku Channel subdomain, though not other subdomains of the site, meaning users will be still be able to access certain parts of the site (including, hopefully, this news article), at least until the French interior deems them subversive and blocks them too.

As Sankaku Complex now encrypts all traffic by default to better protect the security and privacy of its users, most censored users will not see anything but an error message when accessing the site with HTTPS (as such encryption prevents governments and criminals from masquerading as the site), but traffic from affected users accessing the HTTP version of the site will be hijacked and they will be confronted by a warning.

In the best tradition of pointless censorship, the block is trivial to circumvent – France has apparently chosen the “DNS poisoning” method of censorship to implement its regime, forcing collaborator ISPs (though apparently not all of them are affected) to hijack lookups of proscribed domains and misdirect visitors to the government’s warning page.

Much as in Russia or other such enlightened nations, using a VPN is enough to completely bypass the block and prevent state spying on private communications; using a DNS server not beholden to the French government is another (very easy) option – Google provides freely available and uncensored DNS servers to all those trapped in less free nations.

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