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Aussie government to rig filter testing

Opponents of Great Aussie Firewall take to the streets

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The great Aussie firewall is coming apart at the seams, as opposition mounts, and critics have a field day dissecting inept government plans for testing their shiny new filters.

While the government might expect opposition from, well, the opposition, it is possible that the architect of the plan, Labour Senator and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, was not expecting dissent to come from within his own ranks. However, last week’s Conference of New South Wales’ Young Labour passed a motion calling for an opt-in system instead of the mandatory one proposed by the government. Motion 42 read:

"The internet is a free medium for the open communication of ideas and opinions without hindrance, and thus, should not be censored.

"NSW Young Labor supports individual discretion and choice with respect to the internet, rather than censoring the world wide web and its content."

Further embarrassment lurks in the testing plan for the internet filter now being tacked together by the government. According to a response sent to a member of the Australian Whirlpool forum, the test will not actually involve any live customers. The letter explains:

"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.

"This will be a closed network test and will not involve actual customers. The list of 10,000 sites will be developed by the technical organisation assisting the Department on the pilot, which has access to lists of this size. As this test is only being performed to test the impact on network performance against a list of this size, and actual customers are not involved, the make-up of the list is not an issue."

In a well-argued piece that our own internet censors over at the Internet Watch Foundation could possibly learn from, Ars author and former ISP techie Iljitsch van Beijnum writes:

"There's no way to build a filter box that can filter all the URLs where porn is hosted throughout the internet. A DNS-based filter that helps naive users avoid being confronted with explicit content would probably work to a certain degree. An IP-based filter for a small amount of very illegal content ... may also work. But anything more ambitious than that is certain to fail; either it won't work very well, or it will bankrupt the ISPs".

Piling on the government’s woes, opposition is now moving off the web and onto the streets. Protests are planned to take place on Saturday December 13 in all States: in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. Event details can be found on the Stop the Clean Feed website. ®

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