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Minister Conroy on: Promoting a civil and confident society online
22 Dec 2008
To achieve our goal of maximising the participation of Australian businesses and individuals in the digital economy, it is important that the Government and industry collaborate to ensure that people are as confident to interact and engage via the internet as they are offline. Consumers with digital confidence will increasingly find information online, communicate and interact via the internet and shop online. Businesses that have digital confidence will expand their online service offerings. The question we need to ask is 'how we can all work together to inspire online confidence?'
To give Australian households the necessary confidence, the Government is working to promote an online civil society through its $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan. This contains a comprehensive set of measures to combat online threats and help parents and educators protect children from inappropriate material.
It includes funding for:
- education and information measures
- law enforcement
- helplines and websites
- ISP filtering
- consultative arrangements with industry, child protection bodies and children
- further research to identify possible areas for further action.
One element of this program is the Government's proposal to introduce internet service provider- (ISP-) level internet filtering. I'm aware that this proposal has attracted significant debate and criticism—on this blog and at other places in the blogosphere. I'm following the debate at sites like Whirlpool and GetUp and on Twitter at #nocleanfeed.
The Government takes the issue of cyber-safety extremely seriously and welcomes public debate about how we can achieve our goal of protecting children from harmful internet content. We wouldn't have set up this site (or published negative comments on it) if we were trying to close down discussion.
I can assure everyone who is participating in this debate that the Government is taking an evidence-based approach to implementing its cyber-safety policy. I'm aware of technical concerns some have raised with filtering technology. The Government further understands that the potential extent of ISP filtering is inherently related to the technical capabilities of filtering solutions. International experience suggests that index-based filtering of a central blacklist is technically feasible. Broader, dynamic analysis filtering of internet content, on the other hand, has raised some issues in the past. The Government is currently testing the effectiveness of these technical solutions in the current live trial. The results of this trial will inform the Government's approach to this issue.
Elsewhere on this site you can find further information about the Government's ISP Content Filtering Live Pilot.
We are happy to have an open debate about these technical issues. However, the Government does not view this debate as an argument about freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there was never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content. In this context, claims that the Government's policy is analogous to the approach taken by countries such as Iran, China and Saudi Arabia are not justified.
Australian society has always accepted that there is some material which is not acceptable, particularly for children. That is why we have the National Classification Scheme for classifying films, computer games, publications and online content. Australian ISPs are already subject to regulation that prohibits the hosting of certain material based upon the Scheme. For many years, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has had the power to issue a 'take-down' notice requiring that prohibited content hosted in Australia be removed, blocked from public access or hosted from behind a restricted access system, depending on the content involved. All the Government is now seeking to do is to examine how technology can assist in filtering internationally-hosted content.
As we've said since this blog was opened, the Government is experimenting with a new form of consultation and a new level of openness in this medium.
Robert Merkel, a frequent contributor to one of Australia's largest independent blogs, Lavartus Prodeo, noted in the comments for the first topic on this blog that:
Congratulations on the establishment of this blog; it is indeed an interesting experiment that I hope goes welll. It is important, if you want to make a go of it, that it genuinely is a two-way process. Of course, there will be occasions where the tone of comments on this blog strongly oppose some policy that the government decides to take. It is essential o the success of the project that an effort is made to engage those who respectfully and thoughfully disagree with you. If that does not occur, the inevitable conclusion will be that the "blog" is just a venue for press releases.
Posted by Robert Merkel / 10 Dec 2008 7:39am / Permalink
In this spirit, I'll use this post to respond to some of the questions and comments on ISP filtering that were left throughout the blog. Before that, however, I want to make sure everyone understands three things:
- Unfortunately, given the total number of comments, we can't respond to every comment in this format (nor do most bloggers respond to every comment on every post).
- I've tried to respond here to themes that have appeared in the comments on multiple occasions. In this context, given that most comments addressed multiple topics, I've only reproduced the text that is relevant to each theme at the start of each response. I've included a permalink for each quoted comment so you can see everything that commenter had to say if you want.
- I hope to respond to more themes in the comments in the future—so keep your comments coming on this post.
With that in mind, let's get into the discussion.
Responses to comments
- This is an attack on freedom of speech
- Why aren’t PC-level filters sufficient?
- How will the blacklist be maintained?
- Why won’t the Government publish what is included in the ACMA blacklist?
- How does ACMA determine what sites will be included on the blacklist?
- Hasn’t the Government already undertaken a trial of the technical issues surrounding internet filtering? Didn’t this trial find that filtering was not effective?
- Won’t internet filtering reduce internet speeds?
- Internet filtering won’t stop peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic—so why bother?
- So what else is the Government doing to help protect children online?
there is nothing civil or confident about censorship, hardly. Anyone that cannot see that this is indeed censorship and a severe blow to the advancement of mankind;is blind but to their own wants and beliefs and a mistake to their own empowerment ie; a tyrant of sorts
Posted by snotknows / 24 Dec 2008 2:23pm / Permalink
How can you achieve accurate results with out a real world scenario? It is just not possible. I intend to cancel my internet subscription if this occurs.
Posted by Scott Luxford / 24 Dec 2008 2:15pm / Permalink
In the media we are regularly hearing of people being prosecuted for possession of child pornography, generally found on their computers. The positive side of this is that these people are being identified, caught and charged, and the prospect of them ever being allowed to work or be involved in an environment with other peoples children becomes much less likely. So any attempt to apply content filtering inevitably makes it harder for our law enforcement agencies to track the flow of child pornography over the internet as offenders will be forced to find more complex protocols for its transmission. I have always been a Labour Party supporter and have admired the party for its progressive policies. In contrast this mandatory content filtering scheme looks like something that came from out of the Hillsong Church and its associated political offshoot, the Family First party.
Posted by Ross / 24 Dec 2008 1:19pm / Permalink
Is the government planning on decrypting encrypted peer to peer traffic? If so, how do I know my bank details are safe. If not, illegal content is easily encrypted, so why bother filtering? I once again urge this government to cease and desist from this highly unpopular and poorly thought out plan to filter Australia's internet.
Posted by Lucy / 24 Dec 2008 1:16pm / Permalink
Your idea of filtering shows that your knowledge of internet and technology is far below what someone in your position should have, pushing such an unpopular idea and never responding to the concerns and sheer hate people have shown is pathetic. Enjoy your next position sweeping floors in parliament. Because that's the only job someone as retarded as you can handle.
Posted by Wade / 24 Dec 2008 12:57pm / Permalink
Denying torrents will be like denying TV because TV can sometimes contain violence and pornographic content. Your totally destroying the next big thing!
Posted by Thelen / 24 Dec 2008 12:51pm / Permalink
The government has not addressed a number of issues related to the filter in a convincing way. To re-iterate: 1. The filter is not wanted. No proper poll has been done (we can discount push-polls conducted by interest groups who rely on moral panic as a funding source) - but luckily we have a better indicator available. Not just the ratio of comments here, but also the fact that a filter was already offered with a massive marketing campaign to make people aware, and only about 2% of households are using it. The assertion that households are too technically illiterate is patronising and unsubstantiated. The technical knowhow needed to install a filter is negligable and the marketing leaflets and helplines made it even easier. 2. The filter won't work. On the subject of child porn, the head of Taskforce Argos said: "the chances of stumbling across this material… are minimal as it isn’t really distributed on web pages." You can't just stumble on this stuff with casual searches. In the rare instances where the filter might block someone, it can be bypassed in 30 seconds using website services already commonplace in China. Sickos use peer-to-peer software and there's no capacity to filter that—the technology referred to in the previous blog entry is experimental alpha technology that is yet to be employed even in individual firms, let alone for a whole country. And if it were employed, the impact in terms of cost and slowdown would be enormous since each individual packet would need to be routed and decoded—not even the two nations with mandatory filters (Saudi Arabia and China) have intimated doing it. 3. The filter is a waste of money. Funds being spent here are not being spent on policing and detection of child abuse which have yielded such effective results in recent months. In a time when family support services are in such tight straits the idea of spending a hundred million dollars on censorship instead is bizarre. 4. The filter is open to abuse. It can't do much about child porn, but it can stop political content that governments want to hush up. The government says it won't use the filter that way (in which case why even introduce it?) - but any promises won't bind future governments who might feel pressure in the senate to expand the blacklist. 5. The filter will slow down the internet. It can't not. We keep getting disingenuous comparisons with places that don't have a mandatory filter but this is mandatory and theremore much more largescale and heavy-handed. 6. The filter will overblock and underblock content. This has been acknowledged, but the government is still treating internet filter as equivalent to censoring traditional media. What Senator Conroy doesn't understand is that the internet is not just another form of media. The censorship rules applied to other media do not overblock or underblock, and they have some chance of working because you are blocking supply of a physical commodity, like DVDs or VCR tapes. The internet is different. 7. The filter policy will enable child abuse. To implement this filter, the government is sending its blacklist to 700 ISPs, most of whom oppose the policy outright. When the list leaks, as it inevitably must, it will prove a useful tool for the most unsavoury internet users. And if the filter somehow has some success in driving child porn further underground, that will actually make it harder for law enforcement to do its job. 8. The filter is opposed by the Liberal party, the greens, child support agencies (such as Save the Children), ISPs, technical experts everywhere... and quite a lot of voters who remember the government's broken election promise to allow full opt-out. The filter's failure is not just a technical certainty but also a political one. It fails on levels. And the pro-filter case is awful. Seriously. The reason they have to use lies (see: http://libertus.net/censor/resources/statistics-laundering.html#controv) and slander their opponents is that they have no case. They have openly refused to address the filter's feasability, because they know they cannot. The arguments that result are worthy of Sir Humphry ("I know it won't work in practice, but what about in theory?"). The choice the government has is to use the filter trials as a way to bail out of this toxic policy on their own terms... or deny political and technical reality and add to the ignominy with failure in the senate. It falls to us to remember which choice the government makes when the next election rolls around.
Posted by Mark G / 24 Dec 2008 12:37pm / Permalink
hey guess what they even filter the comments on here, hence my last comment not getting posted. Minister Conroy is very un Australian.
Posted by Chris / 24 Dec 2008 12:31pm / Permalink
Like many older Australians I am disgusted by the government action to deny people access to euthanasia and information about euthanasia. I will actively campaign against Labor's re-election at state and federal level if this filter becomes operational.
Posted by billie / 24 Dec 2008 12:30pm / Permalink
I agree that Child pornography is totally wrong and we should be doing anything in our power to stop it and protect children. However, trying to block other sites, peer to peer etc is ridiculous - we are fast becoming the laughing stock of the world.
Posted by Sparky1980 / 24 Dec 2008 11:59am / Permalink
Hi, The current classification review boards allow either a content provider or an 'aggrieved person' to seek a review of an ACMA classification. Since this internet filter will apply to content provided from outside Australia, presumably many content providers will be unaware of Australian laws on this matter. Can the Government guarantee that anyone who wants to access material that has been blocked will have standing as an "aggrieved person" to seek a review of it? Thanks. regards, Michael
Posted by Michael Josem / 24 Dec 2008 11:34am / Permalink
This is yet another infringement on the rights of people supposedly living in a democratic society. The Australian government becomes more like the US government every day in its desire to control and dictate to its people. Of course it has always been inevitable that something so free, enabling, empowering and unrestricted as the Internet can't last because the egomaniacs and control freaks that run our countries don't like us thinking for ourselves....
Posted by hotlazydaze / 24 Dec 2008 10:53am / Permalink
This whole filtering concept appears to me to be a trade with a couple of independents in return for their support for other government initiatives. I can only assume this because no minister with any understanding of the public's wishes would undertake such a stupid initiative. ISP filtering will be the death of internet performance and, worse still, is just one step away from government censorship of any material (not just pornographic) which they don't want the public to see. This may well include political material which is inconsistent with the government's own views. I can only hope that the government receives the backlash from this "nanny state" initiative that it deserves.
Posted by Jeff / 24 Dec 2008 10:42am / Permalink
One word: Options. Give people OPTIONS. If someone wants to protect their children from harmful content on an isp level, give them the OPTION to select a filtered service provider or a filtered service package, but don't force us who have no children view age appropriate content for an 8-year old. As for illegal content, that is another matter, but you CANNOT impose moral values on people on a government level without reverting back to a third world nation.
Posted by Sebastyne / 24 Dec 2008 10:08am / Permalink
It is great that you say that participation in the digital economy is important . However, policies that slow down or restrict access do the exact opposite. Clearly, if we truly want to protect our children from "harmful" content, it would be best to educate not just the kids, but their parents as well. A side effect of such education would be to improve the internet skills of whole generations. Now, that would help make us the "clever country".
Posted by Gavin Heaton / 24 Dec 2008 9:58am / Permalink
from above, "and there was never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content" Freedom of speech is not just allowing political content. Freedom of speech is allowing all possible forms of expression that do not lead directly or indirectly to the harm of another person or people. P2P file transfers is used legitimately for distribution of "free" software like linux that otherwise the produces of the software could not afford to distribute at their expense. Just because criminals use crowbars to break into houses does not mean we should stop the distribution and sale of crowbars to regular customers the same applies to P2P. Good luck trying to stop P2P though because in my 10+ years in Computer Science I can't see how it can be done unless every piece of information being sent over the internet is known to the government computers.
Posted by AlexisS / 24 Dec 2008 9:52am / Permalink
I don't trust them at all. I think it is just an excuse to control the internet. I wonder what the rest of the hidden agenda is. Maybe denial of service attacks from overseas could be justified to preserve our internet freedom.
Posted by Cynical / 24 Dec 2008 9:33am / Permalink
Minister Conroy's claim that government censorship is to protect us is the exact same reason offered by Cuban, Chinese, Iranian and other despicable regimes that crush freedom and try to control debate. This is 21st century book burning, pure and simple, and the fact that Kevin Rudd is allowing it to occur indicates that he learned more than Mandarin while living in China.
Conroy overuses words like "civil" and "confidence" in reference to measures that are currently only used by governments that crush dissent and jail their opponents.
Concepts like freedom and responsibility are utterly alien to the likes of Minister Conroy and any members of his party who support this scheme.
What a sorry day it would be for Australia should we join this poisonous list of countries where liberty is considered too big a threat for the people to enjoy.
Of course it goes without saying that the ALP is too technologically bankrupt to realize that the implementation of these draconian measures will seriously impact download speeds, at least until the next Federal Election.
Posted by John / 24 Dec 2008 9:23am / Permalink
Senator, I along with many others use peer to peer software to -legally- distribute free open source software. Do you intend to make such volunteer activities illegal? To use a broad paintbrush as you do by painting all of us who oppose your proposal as paedophiles, blocking peer to peer is akin to racketeering, as you support maintaining monopolies by extinguishing competition. I too have been a loyal Labor supporter since I came of voting age, but unlike the others here who are promising to change votes IF this goes through, I have already decided. This is one vote that Labor is never getting back. Congratulations Steve, they call what you're doing biting the hand that feeds.
Posted by Mick / 24 Dec 2008 8:38am / Permalink
Another question in relation to the supposed bittorrent / p2p filtering:
If a person puts a file on bittorrent called "holiday photos.zip", how could any filtering software know that it contains child pornography?
All that will happen is the bad guys will simply rename the files. The filter will be useless.
Until Mr Conroy explains this scenario, I would suggest the supposed filtering will never work.
If Mr Conroy and the Labor government believes so strongly this filtering will work, they should publicly state to the nation: "Labor will resign from government and give power to the Liberal party if any child pornography is unfiltered after the new system is put in place".
If the Labor party will not put their own heads on the line, then clearly this filtering will never stop all child pornography.
Then the only conclusion is the "child pornography" is a convenient excuse, and the government wants to control the internet.
It is a simple challenge to Mr Conroy: Promise that Labor will quit government if the filters are introduced and don't work. After all, a government that fails to protect children, does not deserve power.
Posted by Leon2008 / 24 Dec 2008 8:33am / Permalink
I refer to Stephen Conroy's answer:
Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.
What is the name of the filtering software that supposedly can monitor BitTorrent traffic? Provide us with a web link to the company that developed the filtering software. I would suggest Conroy's statement is 100% wrong if he can't even provide a web link for more information. If Mr Conroy tries to say "the filtering software is secret" then clearly the government has ulterior motives.
Posted by Leon2008 / 24 Dec 2008 8:20am / Permalink
Stephen Conroy's answers clearly show he has no clue.
How many comments have been positive on this blog? Close to zero? How many have been negative? 99%? Mr Conroy should explain why he is not listening to the majority, and he should tell us how many votes he estimates Labor will lose at the next election.
Posted by Leon2008 / 24 Dec 2008 8:09am / Permalink
Nothing makes this venture seem more like a farce than an Australian TV channel telling kids to put personal information online in a letter to Santa.
Until government takes steps to make this sort of thing illegal, any 'child protection' filters are pointless.
Governemnt deserves some of the blame for this with agencies like Centrelink and the Family Assistance Office encouraging clients to keep their personal information updated online.
It's obvious that if 'child protection' were so important, Government could find a lot of ways to implement it before they lower their sights onto my internet speed.
As another blogger implied - if you are so keen to parent my kids, how about you buy their food, clothes and school supplies for them, drive them to extra-curricular events, take them shopping and make sure they get to school on time?
Posted by Null Device / 24 Dec 2008 8:03am / Permalink
As mentioned above there are many, many ways to go around these types of "filtering systems". i work in IT and we strugle to keep up with people finding loopholes / backdoors to access even simple social sites. So if you think you have discovered a way to stop / block this from happening please let me know how to do it. It only took a few days for the last governments attempt to be hacked by a 14 year old kid. Let me assure you if you go ahead with this plan it will only take hours before there are 100's of sites with ways to go around it (Good luck keeping up). If your worried about parents that do not understand about filtering then post a wiki / blog / site with a "Dummies guide" about filtering and how to stop it. Maybe you can spend the money on dedicated people for perants to ring for held (Like Centrelink- LOL) This money should be spent on the education system to teach the children and up to the parents as mentioned many times above. Good luck with your plan, you let me know how it works out for you ;)
Posted by IT_Sys_Admin / 24 Dec 2008 7:32am / Permalink
A policy of this size and impact on the Australian people should be brought before the Australian people in the form of a referendum you claim to have a mandate then prove it !
Posted by philraz / 24 Dec 2008 6:46am / Permalink
Is this the brave new world that had me excited to return to a howard-free Australia after 10 years overseas?I have to assume that the effort,research&investment incurred,and that will continue to be incurred,means that more serious problems have been solved?That Australia has a comprehensive Energy&Infrastructure program,that our water problem has finally been addressed,and the land lost to desalination and that has become arid has been reclaimed,that we have improved our inefficient systems at every level,yeah?That jobs that will last,not disappear at the drop of a Dow Jones point,have been created&maintained,and that the number of poor,homeless or disadvantaged have been reduced to the absolute minimum?NO?Well,then,perhaps I'd better stay overseas indefinitely then,as if this Government is the cure,then the disease is no different.
Posted by Tristan / 24 Dec 2008 4:32am / Permalink
“Technology is improving all the time. Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.” - Stephen Conroy
As a musician who shares my music using bittorrent and other peer-to-peer protocols I hope that the filter does not filter out legitimate uses of what is a legal protocol!
As a computer security researcher I will point out that as bittorrent traffic can be encrypted there is no way to actually tell if the traffic is legal or not. That does not justify denying use of the technology altogether. The same goes for web traffic – using encryption (and/or proxies) defeats any filtering in place. There are always ways to circumvent content filters. As you know*.
This scheme is a waste of money, infringes on my ability to act legally, and is completely useless at stopping any informed user from accessing whatever content they want.
* article link
Posted by Cliffe / 24 Dec 2008 3:23am / Permalink
The very nature of the internet dictates that this entire farcical process will in the end be nothing but a monumental waste of time and taxpayers money which only serves to infuriate the general public and destroy the international reputation Australia has of being a forward-thinking, liberal democracy. The ability of your average Bruce to circumvent these filtering procedures should instantly negate any illusions this government holds of the filter being effective. Kids are brought up with the internet as part of their daily lives and are in most cases more technologically adept than their parents, so it's going to be a trivial matter for them to circumvent this ill-thought out proposal if they so wish. It's all a moot point, as this entire fracas is simply a ploy so that labour can placate the conservatives in the senate such as Family First and the right-wing Christian parties to win the votes in the senate they require in order to pass law which is, at the end of the day, the crux of the issue. Labour's claims of 'wanting to protect the children' are nothing but a smokescreen created to confuse the real issue. That responsibility is of the parents and the parents alone, and if you're not 'technically capable' of installing a filter on your PC in this day and age it's really not hard to educate yourself or find someone who has the know-how to do it for you if you're THAT concerned. The fact that 3% of households surveyed had filters installed indicates that A) Parents are able to effectively police their home internet connections and/or B) People just aren't concerned with the risk. Steve I'm sure you're aware that in order to pass this law through the senate you need the support of the Greens, who incidentally are totally opposed to your filtering plans (and who in fact have the most forward thinking and internet friendly policies out of all parties.. food for thought for people wanting to jump off the sinking 2-party ship of Australian politics). The entire thing is just an effort in futility and will probably cost you, if not your party, the next election. The security risks involved in filtering alone are tremendous. The internet is such a fundamentally essential part of modern day life that to put the entire country's connection at risk by implementing flawed filtering technology is utter folly. Mess with our internet at your own peril.
Posted by Kevin07? More like Internet911 amirite / 24 Dec 2008 2:28am / Permalink
The Country has finally "Gone to the Dogs"!! You have replied to my previous email with a 4 page letter that is pure "Political Rhetoric". The filtering of content was never envisaged to include P2P or Torrent Traffic (Used legitimately for games, such as Warcraft), nor to assist the minority of narrow minded & secular areas of the community to make complaints against URL's that will be added to be listed on the ACMA "Blacklist". In your reply you make no mention of one of my main points .. what avenues are available to ( a financially strapped pensioners or the normal citizens of this Country) to appeal against any decision made by the ACMA .. that doesn't involve departmental fees, legal fees, etc? For the sake of public trust and fairness, Why not make the current list of 1300 "Blacklisted" URL's public, inform the public what guidelines will be tested by this live pilot, what specific filtering methods will be employed to filter-out ILLEGAL CONTENT and what innocent URL's will be caught by this ISP Filtering? If it is not Illegal under current laws, it shouldn't be included in a wide "trawl net" that will not advance the Govt's initial reason for implementing this policy ..... Protection of Children !! AS LONG AS IT IS NOT ILLEGAL I shall view, download, play, write, etc. anything I please. Australia is after all a democracy! It is not a country where we will stand idly-by while the government DICTATES what is suitable for use & what, in the Government's opinion, is not suitable. If it's illegal, the legislation and Govt Dept's are already setup to deal with the DUTY of Protecting our Children (Unless the parent deems it appropriate and it is NOT ILLEGAL) I am married, over 50, have no children at home (they have all left home) and spend approx 10 hours per day on the internet. Minister, please tell me how can this ISP filtering assist me to Protect Children that are no longer in my household? It is Political Clap-Trap!!
Posted by Joe / 24 Dec 2008 2:17am / Permalink
I have read the responses provided by Mr Conroy to what he identifies as the main "themes" against the Internet filtering proposal. However, I find they miss the mark and are unconvincing, as I will explain. At the end of my post, I provide further issues that should be considered. 1. This is an attack on freedom of speech While there was perhaps "never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content", freedom of speech as viewed by most Australian concerns more than just political content. I can say whatever I want on the street with very few and limited laws restricting me. What I say cannot be blocked. The person speaking can simply be sued or prosecuted. Online speech should be the same. It should not be blocked, but if illegal then the publisher should be taken to court. Only after a court of law finds it illegal should it be removed. Furthermore, the possibility for abuse by this Government or a future government remains, given a hidden blacklist. 2. Why aren’t PC-level filters sufficient? Does the lack of take-up of the filtering software by Australian households not tell the Government that Australians do not want to filter the Internet? It does not say that they want to filter the Internet, otherwise ISPs would be lining up to offer optional filtering services to increase their users. Basic economics. 3. Why won’t the Government publish what is included in the ACMA blacklist? Does Senator Conroy's response, citing the "public interest" due to lack of a filter, mean that if an Internet filter is implemented then the blacklist will be published? It should be, as a check and balance. At the least, the sites that are not child pornography and hence with no specific laws against them should be listed. 4. Won’t internet filtering reduce internet speeds? This does not take into account increasing network latency, which is important for applications like VOIP, video conferencing and online games. 5. Internet filtering won’t stop peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic—so why bother? Has the Government considered the existence of FTPs, IRC channels and newsgroups? What about encrypted tunnels overseas to download whatever content one wished? There are myriad ways to get around the proposal. All you will do is make the Internet slower and more inconvenient for legitimate users, while illegitimate ones will still get around the filter. Do you realise that adopting Internet filtering will encourage businesses to form overseas with the sole purpose of providing encrypted proxy links for Australian Internet users? You will cause more Australian money to go overseas for no positive reason. 6. So what else is the Government doing to help protect children online? It would be better that those engaged in illegal activities not be made aware of methods of evading detection so that they could more easily be detected and prosecuted. Implementing an Internet filter will make those engaged in illegal activities more aware of methods to avoid detection, hence making the job of law enforcement authorities more difficult. -- Another problem with the proposed Internet filter is that it adds another layer for Internet traffic to go through. This will increase network latency, which is a measure of the time it takes packets to go from one point to another. Having to go through the filter will delay packets, making the Internet feel slower. Everything will take marginally longer to load, due to the extra time taken by packets as they pass through the filter. This is especially important for applications where latency is important, such as voice over IP (VoIP), video conferencing and fast-paced online computer gaming. The filter also introduces a point of vulnerability into the Australian Internet infrastructure. It will be susceptible to DDoS attacks. Filter nodes can be spammed with millions of requests in short order, resulting in Internet outages (or very large delays) to legitimate users until the attacks cease. I keep seeing "unwanted content" mentioned in relation to the filters. What is "unwanted content", anyway? I have more than a sneaking suspicion that the filter will not just ban child porn sites (of which I am suspicious that any even exist, as I doubt people would be stupid enough to host a site that is so clearly illegal), but is rather directed at protecting private interests like copyright by blocking, for example, BitTorrent and P2P websites. This would be doing the job of the copyright owners for them -- our Government enforcing the private interests of a tiny subset of society -- at our own public expense. Terrible. Also, even if we can trust this Government with a blacklist, what about future ones? You can see everything in public view. If the Internet is an extension of society, you should be able to see everything there too. Don't filter, but prosecute the purveyors of illegal material.
Posted by Anonymouse / 24 Dec 2008 1:43am / Permalink
“As we have said in our main post, the Government does not view the ISP filtering debate as an argument about freedom of speech.”
That’s a lovely statement… But don’t you think that you are a little biased? Just because your establishment doesn’t see it like this doesn’t mean that hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people don’t see it in that way…
“Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there was never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content. In this context, claims that the Government's policy is analogous to the approach taken by countries such as Iran, China and Saudi Arabia are not justified.”
Define “Politcal Content”… how does one define what is and is not political content… something which may not be considered a political issue to your establishment, may well be considered a political issue to someone else… who gets to decide what is political and is not political?
This filter will block access to content you deem “not acceptable”… who gets to decide…
drug information and harm minimisation sources… deemed unacceptable?
I’m a 22 year old homosexual male. What happens when someone with a religious agenda such as yourself… decides that maybe publishing HIV information online isn’t "acceptable content" The laws and reforms that you want to put in place are open to abuse and misuse to push various political and religious agendas… where do we draw the line? Who gets to decide what is “not acceptable”? And what qualifies them to decide what is “not acceptable”?
Mr Conroy, the fear of paedophiles is rampant in our country, they are the new media darlings, they sell papers, they buy votes… I do not support paedophiles, they are disgusting vile people who take advantage of vulnerable young people… But how can you honestly say that these reforms are to protect children? The fear card is played time and time again, and what scares people most is when you involve or mention their children… Mr Conroy you are not selling life insurance, and fear should not be a motivating factor here. The voices of the Australian public are loud and clear!
NO CLEAN FEED! NO REPRESSION OF RIGHTS! AND NO INTERNET CENSORSHIP!
I am a heavy internet user, as are lots of people around my age... and we vote... do you really want to further alienate a generation of voters to this extent?
Posted by AH86 / 24 Dec 2008 1:28am / Permalink
I am not worried about this scheme at all. It is poorly thought out, unreasonable and extremely unpopular. Reason and public opinion will stop it in its tracks, and we'll never hear of it again. I just hope this happens soon, before to much of the world starts laughing at us.
Posted by Glen / 24 Dec 2008 1:20am / Permalink
I am not worried about this at all. There is no way something like this will happen. Reason and public opinion will block it long before it happens. I have faith in our country.
I just hope to god that it happens soon, before the rest of the world hears about this.
Posted by Glen / 24 Dec 2008 1:18am / Permalink
There's many, many comments here which sum up what I'm feeling about this and explain the technical issues, so all I'll add is this: I've voted ALP ever since I turned 18 and never thought it would be any other way, but if this gets up, I'll actively campaign against you at every level of government.
Posted by Greg / 24 Dec 2008 12:49am / Permalink
Generally speaking while encryption is legal filtering won't make a dent in illegal activities but will encourage criminals to use cryptography making it even more difficult to detect. Blocking encrypted traffic or making encryption illegal will not fly. ---- Since this this major and obvious factor seems to be ignored, I am curious about this detail. If the proposed black listed content would be blocked then why not publish the black lists making troubleshooting and detecting false positives possible? The excuse that publishing black lists would point to illegal material is ridiculous because the content itself would already be blocked. Only the IPs or URLs to already blocked content need to be published for troubleshooting, not the content itself. ---- And if a web site of legitimate and lawful business gets mistakenly black listed there needs to be a way to correct the problem in a matter of minutes. But the smallest time unit the government knows how to work with is a week. When federal government or classification agencies get involved this will turn into many months, if at all possible. Even if ISP level filtering was technically possible it would destroy online business for Australians. ---- Give this money to police, schools, hospitals, use it to encourage economy, put it alternative fuel research, do whatever constructive with it. We Australians payed you, the government, this money to use for our good, not to waste it on a futile crusade.
Posted by Concerned Australian / 24 Dec 2008 12:25am / Permalink
I can understand the reasons for the use of this technology but the ability of the government to censore information arbritarly is open to abuse. one of the great aspects of the world wild web is that no content is 'filtered'. this filtering will not solve the problem of cyber crime. i believe that this system will not have the outcomes desired and has little popular support. for those reasons i am firmly against this filtering.
Posted by nick / 24 Dec 2008 12:15am / Permalink
Minister Conroy, your claim that the government controlled filtering (read censorship) of the internet is not about attacking Australians rite to free speech is misleading at best and deceptive at worst. Currently your government and previous governments spend many millions of dollars on Media advisers, press secretaries and PR people to try and control what appears in the traditional media. So now you want Australians to hand you and your government to exclusive legal right to control what Australians see on the internet. All you offer us as comfort that you, your governments and governments to come will not block material that is politically critical of the government of the day is 'trust us'. Sorry we don't, we are not that naive.
Posted by Agmates / 23 Dec 2008 11:51pm / Permalink
By making plans to remove our right to choose what information we look at on the internet, you're effectively going to change the Constitution insofar as to put an end to a basic right of any free democracy - a citizen's right to choose what we do and don't look at. Have a serious think about bringing this filter of yours into action, Senator. If you've got any brains, you'll wake up to yourself and put a stop to this nonsensical idea right now before the lynch mob reaches Parliament House. We the people do not want your stupid filter, and will do everything in our legal power to ensure your plan doesn't go any further than the paper it's scribbled on. There's one of you, and tens of thousands of us who won't vote for you at the next Election, so who do you think will ultimately lose? In plain English, stop this nonsense, or you're out of a job!
Posted by DJShotty / 23 Dec 2008 11:48pm / Permalink
What happens when the public servants get behind in updating the censorship lists......and they will? Our young are exposed again. This idea will only push the deviates underground. I will not vote for the Labor Government in the next election because of this one issue.
Posted by Starry / 23 Dec 2008 11:27pm / Permalink
1) Side stepping the questions raised by the concerned particpants in this blog will not serve to reduce the amount of opposition to censorship. When people are asking for Senator Conroy to be more open about exactly what content is being blocked, they are not looking for new bookmarks, titles or URLs of sites, but a clear definition of what is deemed inappropriate material. If this blocked content is to be based on current laws then the public outcry will only increase tenfold as there is currently no adult classification for digital media such as games. 2) No one that I know of is seeking to be able to view illegal material from their computers, but it would be nice to have some assurance that adults living in a supposedly democratic nation will have the same access to adult content online that many now enjoy on television and DVD. Games such as Silent Hill have been denied classification based on current gaming laws that are designed with only 15 year old children in mind. This matter needs to be clarified immediately. 3) Parents should be capable of supervising their own children and implementing end user filters if they so desire. The money assigned for developing this censor would have been better spent ensuring that technically incompetent parents are capable of protecting their own children rather than expecting all of society to yet again be responsible for parenting their children for them. 4) Legislation will also need to be written, perhaps as part of an overall constitution that protects our rights to freedom of information and speech. Many Australians take it for granted that these rights are already protected under our constitution, but this is not the case and also needs to be rectified. Whilst an assurance from one senator that political speedch will be protected may be seen as comforting by some here, it does nothing to ensure that this type of censorship will not be mis-used in the future. 5) Australia already labours under some of the slowest internet speeds in the world. With the filter further reducing those speeds, what will be done to improve the lag and attempt to get us to a stage where we can lay claim to a modern internet infrastructure? Once again, this is an area where the money allocated to this program would have been better spent. 6) Lastly, just how much public outcry will it take for the government to abandon this ridiculous scheme and actually represent the people who voted them
Posted by ilandrah / 23 Dec 2008 11:21pm / Permalink
To think that the government is wasting my tax dollars on such a backward, draconian infringement on free-speech... It saddens me greatly to think that our civil liberties are being slowly chipped away.
Posted by Jeremy / 23 Dec 2008 11:19pm / Permalink
In response to Conroy's ridiculous answer regarding the blacklist not being made public.. Are you completely unaware of how people that spread childporn work Mr Conroy? Are you also deaf and unable to read? Who is going to find the links to add to the blacklist? Are they going to be jailed for viewing child porn in their search? If the sites are found, then they will be gone within days. There are no permanent childporn websites, as I was taught while working for an online safety organisation. The child porn is uploaded to a server that is linked to by a number address, spread throughout the pedophile networks and then deleted within DAYS. This is never going to work. This has NOTHING to do with child porn and everything to do with the New World Order.
Posted by Ruth / 23 Dec 2008 11:17pm / Permalink
TOTAL LUNACY!!! the internet in Aus is already backwards and adding this filtering to the already slow speeds we get (at high prices too) will only serve to eat into whatever bandwidth we get. Anyone wanting to run a website will be forced to use offshore servers to have any hope of getting adequate bandwidth to run a reasonable site. Add to this the nannying that internet users will be subject to is ridiculous. What are you going to filter? Esp peer to peer. I torrent Top Gear (SBS show them a yr late), which is strictly illegal but hardly a huge deal. is the filter going to stop that? Who will make sure it doesn't spill into political comment? politicians are not to be trusted and their party machines are to be trusted less. I'm a parent and i monitor what my daughter is doing online. it is not the govt's job to be my daughter's parent, it's mine and i do it well. If you want to be a parent to my daughter, can you come and babysit her so i can go to the pub on a friday night occasionally. that'd be nice. if you can't do that, keep the **** away, I will continue to be a good dad and you can spend this money on education or health where it will be some use.
Posted by seanoff M EComm / 23 Dec 2008 11:09pm / Permalink
I think everyone thinks this is the worst thing that Australia has ever done. Not one of the worst, but THE worst. Things like this make me not proud of my country and I will happily leave the country if this gets put into play. You might say it isn't a big deal and I don't need to leave the country because of an internet filter. Want to know why I will leave this country? I run an international business based here in Australia. The internet is the way we do our business for EVERYTHING. The slowdown is going to make it impossible to keep business the way it is now. Believe me when I say I will happily move to an asian country along with my business so I don't have to put up with this dictator government. By the way Rudd, I voted for you. I wish I could have taken my vote back and not voted at all. I would think you would be against this but I guess I was wrong. All you have to say is no and you can stop this nonsense.
Posted by Kalani / 23 Dec 2008 11:04pm / Permalink
Having not read all the comments. All I can say is that criminals will use anonymous proxy servers should you deem this unsuitable strategy for protecting our children. Criminals will be force underground making them even more difficult to track. You should have allocated the money towards a special police task force combating child pornography instead of slowing Australia's future down. I really wish you would know what you are doing.
Posted by Liam / 23 Dec 2008 11:00pm / Permalink
Kevin Rudd and Conroy are putting at risk our fundamental rights of democracy. While ever the ALP fails to publish the Blacklist, and has it independently audited, how can we live in the belief that we live in a free and fair society? "No society can possibly be built on a denial of individual freedom." - Ghandi
Posted by Nathan Barton / 23 Dec 2008 10:38pm / Permalink
(Putting aside all the technical or ideological arguments I have against the filter) I'm sure that the Rudd government is pretty keen on keeping as many of their election promises as possible (an admirable goal, and also a way to avoid a possible line of opposition attack). However, this issue should be viewed differently in a number of ways: 1. Most people didn't know about the policy until after the election. I'm relatively well-informed about political issues and had no idea this was going to happen. 2. Consequently, there was no particularly strong mandate for the government to introduce this policy. Workchoices, climate change, Iraq, health and education spending, even Howard's age and the Republic were all cited by people I know as reasons why they voted against the Howard government; mandatory ISP-filtering never rated a mention. I'm aware that this is akin to calling it a 'non-core promise' but it's different because: 3. The overwhelming majority of not just stakeholders but also the general public DO NOT support the policy. Forcing it on us despite this is not democratic, it's just plain stubbornness. 4. It's a bad, inefficient, counterproductive, costly and stupid policy. Also, I'm baffled by what someone referred to in an earlier comment as the "scope-creep" of this policy. If the minister is looking to reach the point where there's enough backlash to be able to back away gracefully (as the Qld government has done on numerous occasions) then he should realise that he reached that point a while ago. Back away, Senator Conroy. You will be respected for it.
Posted by Andrew Thorpe / 23 Dec 2008 10:34pm / Permalink
A one term labour Government
Posted by Vernon / 23 Dec 2008 10:25pm / Permalink
I'm just curious, has this plan been backed by any portion of the public besides those of religious origins? As soon as Coalition says they will reverse this internet filter we, the people, will give them the mandate to do so and it is unlikely a labour government will see office for another two terms at least.
Posted by Mitchell / 23 Dec 2008 10:22pm / Permalink
I am completely and utterly opposed to the CleanFeed filter. By implementing this filter, Australia, a first-world country, will be violating the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19; which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” CleanFeed also violates the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (Commonwealth) 1979; which says that the Government requires a warrant to intercept our telecommunications data. This CleanFeed filter will not even block a quarter of unwanted content. It will simply lull parents into a false sense of security, and encourage development of new circumvention and distribution methods. Mr Rudd, Mr Conroy, I dont know what the hell you two are thinking, but rewinding out internet by ten years is not the way to go. Listen to experts like Mart Newton, and stay off drugs.
Posted by Psychosis / 23 Dec 2008 10:17pm / Permalink