Dr Paul Watters of the University of Massey in New Zealand is unquestionably the world’s leading authority on the grubby realities of piracy web sites. These sites try to portray themselves as modern day Robin Hoods attacking big corporations so they can give stuff away to the little guy.
Watters shows what the great bulk really are: highly commercially motivated criminal enterprises intent on lining the pockets of the small number of villains who own them.
But why should someone like me – who is principally concerned with online child protection – care about piracy sites? Watters shows why. These piracy sites are magnets for millions of children but when they go to the sites they find themselves in a horrible environment, immersed in and surrounded by ads for prostitution, sex toys, hard core pornography and much worse as well. Then there’s a whole bunch of malware which can destroy their own and their family’s computers or other connected devices or rip them off, and likely both.
ECPAT International recently commissioned Dr Watters to carry out a study of piracy web sites in Brazil. His conclusions couldn’t have been clearer. It was published in December as a strong call to action to protect Brazilian children.
What has happened since? Shameful politics and delay is the answer.
The Brazilian House of Representatives’ Committee of Enquiry on Cybercrimes held hearings and issued an excellent report which, among many other things, recommended that, following a court order , piracy web sites containing illegal content should be blocked. An increasing number of democracies around the world do this. Blocking these sites is a valuable tool that helps protect kids and keep their families safe.
However, to listen to some of the opposition being expressed to the Committee of Enquiry’s proposals you would think we are only days away from the end of civilization as we know it in Latin America’s largest country. Dr Watters’s diligent, painstaking research seems to count for nothing as the usual suspects in the internet industry try to avoid their responsibilities.
I hope that everyone concerned with children’s best interests makes their views known to Brazil’s elected representatives. We need to get behind the CPI’s recommendations and not be deflected by smoke and mirrors.
Brazil has a proud tradition of energetic engagement in debates on internet freedom and online rights although when the NetMundial statement was adopted in Sao Paulo in 2014 somehow children and young people failed even to get a mention. Let’s not overlook children’s and young people’s interests again.