Feeds

New Zealand bolts net filtering regime into place

Shows Oz - and us - how it's done

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

If you thought that net filtering and grandiose firewalls were the exclusive preserve of West Island (or "Australia", as the locals like to call it), think again. New Zealand is showing that it, too, is ready to play its part in the great Antipodean censorship stakes.

Last week, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) announced it was setting up a filter system that will allow internet service providers to stop people accessing child pornography.

The filter system has already been trialled in hundreds of thousands of New Zealand households, and Internal Affairs deputy secretary Keith Manch confirmed that the voluntary system will block access to around 7000 websites carrying images of child sexual abuse.

As always, with such systems, there are concerns that this power could be abused: internet Safety group NetSafe welcomed the move, while warning that there could be concerns if the department later used the filter to block a wider variety of websites.

Manch denies that any such plans exist and stressed that the filter is only for targeting the sexual abuse of children. The department is now finalising its analysis of the trial and will be discussing with internet providers how to implement the system.

So is New Zealand following its nearest neighbour into internet overkill?

The possibility exists, but given the New Zealand track record on censorship to date, it seems unlikely. The legal framework governing internet content in New Zealand is the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, as amended by the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005 (pdf).

Outwardly, this Act is quite draconian, combining in one law almost every bit of censorship that the UK has erected piecemeal over the last ten years. The Law makes it an offence to to possess or trade in "objectionable" publications.

"Objectionable" is broadly defined as: "a publication...(that) describes, depicts or expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence in such a manner that the availablity of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good."

Although the law does not specifically reference the internet, officials claim that it does cover online publication.

Not only has New Zealand managed to bring together in one Act the concepts of possession and publication – now governed by entirely separate law in the UK. They have also pulled together child abuse, violent or coercive sex, terrorism and race hatred into the same legal bucket. That is a very neat approach, allowing for a remarkable consistency of policing.

In practice, however, the DIA focus tends to be mostly on those involved in the distribution or possession of child porn.

A good comparative evaluation of internet censorship in New Zealand and Australia can be found at the Open Net resource, here. Both have official bodies with powers to investigate and police the internet – although New Zealand lacks the power to order a formal takedown of websites.

Meanwhile, cybersafety education for all New Zealanders - children, parents, schools, community organisations and businesses – is provided in a highly positive fashion by independent non-profit organisation, NetSafe.

As debate on the shape of internet regulation in the UK hots up, the New Zealand model is one that is worth examining. The legal framework offers a clarity now almost wholly absent from the UK.

NetSafe looks to be much closer to the spirit of the Byron Review, which called for a calmer, more inclusive response to the challenges of the internet than our current mindset which appears to be locked into an obsession with control, either through blocking and takedown (the Internet Watch Foundation) or film-style classification and a regulatory body to police content. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.