Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Internet Filtering in Australia, Round 2

I received this week my appropriately bland response from Sen. Conroy over the proposed ISP filtering. The letter was not addressed personally, nor hand-signed by anyone. Instead, it was a 4-page blanket statement of policy. Here are some real gems from it:

As part of a $125.8 million commitment, the letter mentions “ISP-level filtering – funding to develop and implement ISP filtering, including undertaking a real world ‘live’ pilot”. This made me laugh, at the idea that funding a live-pilot of ISP filtering were something laudable and novel.

“The Government’s policy [on ISP filtering] will be developed through an informed and considered approach, including industry consultation and close examination of overseas models to assess their suitability for Australia”

As far as I can tell, Sen. Conroy seems to be ignoring the industry’s advice, appears un-informed, and continually makes ill-considered remarks and proposals.

“Filtering technologies have been adopted by ISPs in a number of countries including the United Kingdom, Sweden Norway, and Finland, predominantly to filter child pornography”

Sen. Conroy fails to mention the nature of any of these schemes, that they are not comparable to the proposed filtering in Australia, and fails to mention the two schemes that are comparable, Iran and China.

“In these countries ISP filtering has not affected internet performance to a noticeable level.”

That is because none of these ISP filtering schemes approaches in any way what is being proposed by Sen. Conroy.

In reference to the ACMA blacklist, Sen. Conroy notes that it “currently contains around 1300 URLs.” Really? That’s the number of URLs listed as prohibited after someone complained about them. Was that the black-list used in the 2005 trials? or the current ‘live’ trials? Because that list is incredibly small, and any pilot with that number is very inapplicable to the proposed filtering scheme.

“ACMA has also negotiated agreement with the UK Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) facilitating access to the IWF’s list of child abuse image URLs.”

So a UK organisation also gets to determine our ‘prohibited’ URLs. Does that raise questions of censorship for anyone?

“In consultations with ISPs, concerns have been raised that filtering a blacklist beyond 10 000 URLs may raise network performance issues, depending on the configuration of the filter. The pilot will therefore seek to also test network performance against a test list of 10 000 URLs.”

Well, at least the industry realises the scope of what Sen. Conroy is proposing. I don’t even need to do a search to suggest that there are a vast number of sites, multiples of 10 beyond 10,000, that would be considered ‘prohibited’, that the trial won’t even begin to deal with the scale of filtering that Sen. Conroy is proposing. 10,000 URLs is not a sufficient test number at all, and I suspect any test at that range will begin to show their sheer technical futility of the proposed filtering.

The best is not in the letter though, it’s at the end of this link: P2P traffic.
Here Sen. Conroy responds to comments that ISP-filtering won’t stop Peer-to-peer and Bittorrent traffic, which is where the bulk of ‘prohibited’ material is transferred. Sen. Conroy says this:

“The Government understands that ISP-level filtering is not a 'silver bullet'. We have always viewed ISP-level filtering as one part of a broader government initiative for protecting our children online.
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.”

Emphasis all mine. Really, Sen. Conroy? I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in this technology. Did you whip it up on your home PC? Surely the Government wouldn’t keep a technological innovation like this secret from us all?

Sorry, Sen. Conroy. Such technology does not exist, you don’t have it, and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your plan is full of technical holes, is morally bankrupt, and politically unsupported. If the Australian people wanted to censor their internet, they would have downloaded software to do it themselves.

1 comment:

Roger Pearse said...

I've never heard of this Conroy - not being Australian - but he sounds like a typical, greedy power-grabber. He didn't create the internet; but he'd sure love to decide who gets to use it! Disgusting.