Feeds

Oz govt pushes mandatory net filters

Yellow brick road blocks

High performance access to file storage

Australia's newly elected Labor government is pushing plans that would make it mandatory for local ISPs to install porn-blocking filters, offering "clean" internet feeds as a preferred option.

Telecomms Minister Stephen Conroy said the policy would protect children from online pornography and violent websites, ABC News reports. Senator Conroy said the government would work with ISPs to make sure that filters did not affect the speed of the internet.

The idea has been kicked around in Australia and elsewhere for some years. The incoming Labor government is essentially backing a modified form of a scheme advocated, but not implemented, by its Liberal-National predecessors.

Under the latest variant of the filtering plan, Australian ISPs would have to provide a "clean feed" option for schools and homes. Individual users would be able to opt-out of the service and receive unfiltered content.

Schools and libraries are already free to install filters in the form of censorware packages. However commercial packages are often more attuned to the sensibilities of Bible Belt America than elsewhere. Leaving aside questions over the effectiveness of net-nanny software, of which there are many, kids might be restricted from accessing sexual health websites or campaigning groups such as Amnesty International as well as violent content.

At least censorware software is customisable and under the control of individual administrators. Going from a market-led to government-regulated regime for internet access smacks of the nanny state or, put even less charitably, Big Brother.

However Senator Conroy rejected criticism from civil liberties groups that state regulation of internet access damaged civil liberties.

"Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of the internet is like going down the Chinese road," he said. "If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree."

Senator Conroy compared the Labor government's filtering proposals to schemes in the UK and Sweden.

The UK's BT has been running a system called Cleanfeed, which censors access to several thousand websites on a blacklist compiled by UK Internet trade body, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) for over three years. The blacklist features sites containing images of child sexual abuse that are "illegal to view" in the UK, under the 1978 Child Protection Act.

The proposed Australian system would take this approach and extend it to include a list of sites that promote violence as well. ISPs would be instructed to block http requests to such sites.

Such a system only prevents 'casual' browsing of known websites. It will not hinder organised distribution of such images or Torrent downloads or even curtail the creation of new child abuse websites, most of which are hosted in Eastern Europe.

Filtering lists can be inaccurate so much depends on how quickly inaccuracies can be sorted out in order to ensure blocking websites offering illegal images causes the minimum of collateral damage.

But efforts are normally made to make filtering lists secret, which works against this objective. Experience in the UK, at least, suggest Senator Conroy's proposals will go down well with the man in the street but whether they'll prove effective or not is far more doubtful. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.