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In Switzerland, Even Authorities Oppose a Darknet Ban

Authorities in Switzerland see an increasing number of crimes linked to the darknet. FDP National Council member and so-called IT expert Marcel Dobler argues that the federalization of police departments that fight cybercrime hinder darknet investigations [and ordinary cybercrime]. The only way to improve the government’s ability to find and catch cybercriminals who retreat to the darknet, according to Dobler, is to create a national cybercrime coordination center.

Dobler was not alone in the early-August criticism of Switzerland’s federalized approach to combatting cybercrime. Lucerne SVP National Council member Franz Grüter spoke to the inefficacy of the current system. “We underestimated the danger and waited far too long,” he said. “Each department [needs to] cultivate a garden instead of taking the lead.” By the garden analogy, Grüter referred to something of a community garden where every member—in this case, every department—worked together towards something. That something being a national cybercrime coordination center.

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Grüter took the proposal one step further than Dobler, though; he explained that the government should be working towards, in addition to the coordination center, a close relationship with universities and technical colleges throughout Switzerland. “We do not have enough specialists for combating crime on the Internet.”

“The [departments within each canton] are very different in the fight against cybercrime,” Dobler explained. He gave an example: Zurich fights cybercrime with Zurich’s own cybercrime department and special prosecutor. This is not a standard throughout the Cantons.

“[Cybercriminals] have a national, usually an international dimension.” Yet, for the most part, “each police station is responsible for itself, whereby much knowledge is lost,” he added. Dobler additionally disagreed that a ban on the darknet would be of any benefit. “Criminals always find a way to circumvent IP barriers.” However, while the general proposals from Dobler were agreed with, his overall approach faced some opposition.

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A member of the Chaos Computer Club, Hernani Marques, disagreed with the notion that more resources should be applied to a widespread “monitoring” of the internet—specifically the darknet. “Switzerland should not monitor wildly,” he said. “Instead, focus on the [current] investigation.” He argued that putting together a national coordination center and then stretching the resources thin would be, for obvious reasons, counterintuitive. He agreed that a darknet ban would change nothing in the way of cybercrime. “Whether the Darknet is forbidden or not, criminals are not interested.”

Marques also opposed the darknet ban from a human rights standpoint:

Forestry and roads are not forbidden, just because illegal trafficking took place there. A ban also goes beyond the target because the network allows users to protect themselves from tracking, mass monitoring or dictatorships. That means it can also help us to ensure human rights. If you browse the Darknet and visit a website there, it is like reading a book in the forest, where no one knows. In this respect one moves in a right-free space.

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