"Control" will the end-user be recognised?

Well the campaign against mandatory ISP filtering by internetblackout.com.au has certainly been causing a stir both in the media & on-line forums. Some statistics are always good viewing!

  • 500+ verified participating sites
  • 296,000+ unique visitors to the campaign site
  • 438,000+ views of the blackout info popup

Here is some information provided by Jonathan Barnett (via facebook) detailing the history of the proposed bill…

Internet Filtering Policy

Stuart Fenech

28 January 2010

The Internet filtering policy has changed around six times since it was an election policy back in 2007. The office of Brett Raguse MP has constantly raised concerns of constituents in this area since the 2007 election. This document aims to provide an overview of the current state of the policy.

Overview

The Internet filtering policy, originally a 2007 election policy, has evolved as a result of industry and community feedback. The current policy proposes two levels of Internet filtering:

1. Mandatory Internet filtering of Refused Classification (RC) material.

RC material includes child sex abuse, bestiality, sexual violence and similar material. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) already orders his material to be ‘taken down’ if is hosted in Australia. There is a credible debate about what this may mean on the edges and public consultation is taking place on this subject.

This system is proposed to block a list of Internet sites called a blacklist. This relatively simple technology is quick and used in many countries. I am advised by Information Technology professionals that this system will have a negligible impact on Internet connection performance.

The policy in this area was originally that there would be a mandatory blocking of ‘offensive material’. This was narrowed to the ‘ACMA blacklist’ and has now been narrowed further to RC. This is a far more limited scope than that used in countries such as China and is similar to the systems in the UK, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

2. Optional Internet filtering of broader ‘offensive material’.

The second level of Internet filtering is the one that has attracted the most controversy. This is an optional higher level of Internet filtering to be offered by some Internet Service Providers (ISP’s). Individuals will only have this ‘clean feed’ on their service if they request it. ISP’s do not have to offer this ‘clean feed’ but may access Federal Government grants for providing this service.

Originally, it was planned for this level of Internet filtering to be mandatory for individuals and ISP’s, with an ‘opt out’ option for individuals. This has been sensibly altered to the current policy, where individuals have to ‘opt in’ if they want a ‘clean feed’ and ISP’s are not forced to offer such a service.

Current technologies for this level of censorship present technical issues including overblocking, underblocking and performance impacts. There are also critical social issues relating to the role of government in censorship. As technical barriers are inevitably eventually overcome, the social issues will become of more importance than the technical issues in the long term.

Policy

The following issues have been overcome:

The policies as proposed will not slow down the Internet unless people deliberately choose a censored connection.

Scope of censorship issues have been largely resolved – RC for all Internet connections, and higher levels only for people who want it.

Cost issues have been reasonably contained by limiting the scope and not forcing Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) to offer censorship beyond RC.

ISP competition issues have been resolved by assistance to implement the blacklist filter and not forcing them to implement higher levels of censorship.

The following issues remain:

The Internet filtering technology is likely to be overcome by technical experts.

The optional higher level of Internet censorship will still have overblocking, underblocking, effectiveness and speed issues, but this will not affect most people.

Oversight of sites to be blocked, though a discussion paper has been released by Minister Conroy on this subject.

Risks of scope creep in censorship.

There is a technical issue relating to the boundary between RC and illegal material.

So will you just sit and watch as your internet freedom is taken from you (like you are a child) or will you make a stand and voice your opinion to your local MP? The decision is yours to make, but do nothing… and well you just may not be able to view my blog as who knows it may get “FILTERED” …