Extreme pron vigilantes are after you

Or are they?


Just when you thought it was safe to dip your toe back in the waters of internet smut, along comes a bunch of vigilantes who could be about to make life a great deal more worrying. Or perhaps not - read on and make your own mind up.

This week, the new law on extreme porn went live throughout the UK (except Scotland). Hopes in some quarters that this law would prove a panacea to the nastier end of internet kinkiness were dashed last week when ACPO announced that they would not be actively policing it.

All change, however, as an organisation calling itself extremeporn mails The Register to announce that if the government won’t do it, they will. A slightly topsy-turvy argument on its homepage states:

We believe that the law should be enforced; not doing so breeds laziness and impreciseness in the legislature, lack of inspection of the law outside of the legislature, increased power of the executive due to selective enforcement and permits many people guilty - of a crime, if nothing else - to get away Scot-free … This is bad for everyone.

Some more explanation of what it plans to do is contained a little further into the site. They claim that they will primarily categorise and monitor torrents. Once a torrent has been added to their system, they will periodically poll the tracker for peer IPs and then use GeoIP technology to identify UK-based IPs. Where a match is found, the system will, in principle, email the abuse contact for that IP.

(This is where extremeporn’s claims become a little vague: they seem to be agreeing, however, that there are practical issues with this stage of the process.)

Despite this, they claim already to have filed more abuse reports than the Government planned to prosecute in an entire year.

So what is going on? Is this spoof or net vigilantism? A quick trace suggests that the domain name is registered to an individual going by the name of Adam Gleave. This may or may not be accurate.

In a further email sent to El Reg this afternoon, the site owner confessed that although the overall aim sounded a little grandiose, the project currently consists of "little more than 255 lines of Python code, a hastily assembled website, and a few, loose-knit members".

They add: "The government would have have spent at least £1 million to have achieved a similar feat, though."

Nonetheless, they do appear to be serious in their intent to out individuals caught downloading potentially illegal torrent content, arguing that they would only need a positive response from a very small proportion of ISPs for this action to have a significant effect.

Ambivalence as to their eventual aims is given by their suggestion that they would be willing to discuss ways in which people can evade our and others detection and censorship attempts on the internet, and censorship and policing attempts of the internet in general.

Technical experts have suggested that the process described by extremeporn is feasible, especially if supported by the Police, but they expressed some scepticism that it would work very well.

Beyond that, the site’s selection of stories and imagery to make its points are slightly more suggestive of an organisation that dislikes the government’s world view than one that buys into it. A link for "watchful eyes" takes readers to a disturbingly Orwellian poster produced by Transport for London, whilst a second link to an internet competency centre links to what appears to be a rather portly (and possibly German) euro-cop staring at his laptop.

There is also a fairly telling link to a story about an individual killed as a result of vigilantism. Ultimate irony or sharp political point?

The argument put forward by extremeporn to justify their actions is subtle, but probably more anti-censorship than first appears. Critics of the new law have argued that it is little more than a figleaf, and that the last thing government wishes to happen is for anyone to take it seriously. They’ve ticked the extreme porn box and can now concentrate on important things – like prostitution.

The authorities have traditionally been a little sniffy when it comes to freelance efforts and satirical websites. One only has to look at the Met’s reaction to thinkofthechildren – or the wider condemnation of possible freelance action to take down al-Qaeda websites from the US – to realise that independent action is not welcome.

So no surprise that we have had no comment from the IWF (a slight degree of jealousy, perhaps, that extremeporn appear to be venturing into territory they themselves cannot?) and from ACPO a fairly bland assurance that "the police service will use this new legislation as part of the toolkit that police officers have to combat pornographic crime. Wherever we encounter possession of extreme pornographic material we will investigate it further and take the necessary action.

"If there is a member of the public who is concerned that they have an illegal image in their possession, they should seek legal advice," the ACPO concludes.

Although if this site is genuine, it could be that the police will already have their hands full. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Moscow court fines Pinterest, Airbnb, Twitch, UPS for not storing data locally
    Data sovereignty is more important than Ukrainian sovereignty

    A Moscow court has fined Airbnb, Twitch, UPS, and Pinterest for not storing Russian user data locally, according to Russian regulator Roskomnadzor.

    The decision was handed down by the Tagansky District Court of Moscow after the four foreign companies allegedly did not provide documents confirming that the storage and processing of Russian personal data was conducted entirely in the country.

    Twitch, Pinterest and Airbnb were fined approximately $38,500 while UPS received a fine of roughly $19,200.

    Continue reading
  • Israel plans ‘Cyber-Dome’ to defeat digital attacks from Iran and others
    Already has 'Iron Dome' – does it need another hero?

    The new head of Israel's National Cyber Directorate (INCD) has announced the nation intends to build a "Cyber-Dome" – a national defense system to fend off digital attacks.

    Gaby Portnoy, director general of INCD, revealed plans for Cyber-Dome on Tuesday, delivering his first public speech since his appointment to the role in February. Portnoy is a 31-year veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, which he exited as a brigadier general after also serving as head of operations for the Intelligence Corps, and leading visual intelligence team Unit 9900.

    "The Cyber-Dome will elevate national cyber security by implementing new mechanisms in the national cyber perimeter, reducing the harm from cyber attacks at scale," Portnoy told a conference in Tel Aviv. "The Cyber-Dome will also provide tools and services to elevate the protection of the national assets as a whole. The Dome is a new big data, AI, overall approach to proactive defense. It will synchronize nation-level real-time detection, analysis, and mitigation of threats."

    Continue reading
  • Intel to sell Massachusetts R&D site, once home to its only New England fab
    End of another era as former DEC facility faces demolition

    As Intel gets ready to build fabs in Arizona and Ohio, the x86 giant is planning to offload a 149-acre historic research and development site in Massachusetts that was once home to the company's only chip manufacturing plant in New England.

    An Intel spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday to The Register it plans to sell the property. The company expects to transfer the site to a new owner, a real-estate developer, next summer, whereupon it'll be torn down completely.

    The site is located at 75 Reed Rd in Hudson, Massachusetts, between Boston and Worcester. It has been home to more than 800 R&D employees, according to Intel. The spokesperson told us the US giant will move its Hudson employees to a facility it's leasing in Harvard, Massachusetts, about 13 miles away.

    Continue reading
  • Start using Modern Auth now for Exchange Online
    Before Microsoft shutters basic logins in a few months

    The US government is pushing federal agencies and private corporations to adopt the Modern Authentication method in Exchange Online before Microsoft starts shutting down Basic Authentication from the first day of October.

    In an advisory [PDF] this week, Uncle Sam's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) noted that while federal executive civilian branch (FCEB) agencies – which includes such organizations as the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and such departments as Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and State – are required to make the change, all organizations should make the switch from Basic Authentication.

    "Federal agencies should determine their use of Basic Auth and migrate users and applications to Modern Auth," CISA wrote. "After completing the migration to Modern Auth, agencies should block Basic Auth."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022