Feeds

The Great Aussie Firewall is dead: Long live the firewall

Details of Australian ISP blocking now public

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The Australian government announced new laws today – or yesterday in local time – that will force all Australia-based ISP’s to block dodgy material entering the country from overseas, or face swingeing penalties if they fail to do so.

The announcement came in an official statement from the Department of Communications which made clear the Government’s intention to "introduce legislative amendments to require all ISPs in Australia to use ISP level filtering to block overseas hosted Refused Classification (RC) material on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) RC Content list".

They added: "Content defined under the National Classification Scheme as Refused Classification includes child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act."

This represents a retreat from initial hazy plans to introduce a great state-run firewall to shield the country from the tidal wave of "unsuitable material" that lurked just outside its shores. Insofar as the scheme is actually workable, it is viewed by many as a dangerous assault on freedom of speech in Australia.

El Reg spoke to Colin Jacobs, Vice-Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA). He confirmed the gradual evolution of government thinking, from the technologically unfeasible through to the solution advocated today.

He explained that the present government were elected on a platform that included protecting the nation from child abuse on the internet. This quickly translated into vague plans for some sort of shield, and a long drawn-out testing process to "prove" that filtering based on the Australian Communications and Media Authority [ACMA] blacklist would not excessively degrade internet speed.

According to the Communications Department, the tests carried out have shown that this can be done.

Mr Jacobs said: "The real problem was never technical, but political. Although the government rhetoric is all based on child abuse, only about a third of existing RC material could be considered to be child abuse: the RC classification is notorious for including all manner of material on grounds it might incite crime."

That is the presumed reason why a Youtube film site on euthanasia has been included on the RC list. The Australian ratings system is also notorious for not having an R18 categories for games, which means that many games passed for play in the UK and the rest of the world are simply banned in Australia.

In recognition of this, the announcement from the Communications Department highlights an ongoing consultation on the status of RC as classification.

Mr Jacobs added: "It is not at all clear why the RC list includes many gambling sites – as well as that of an Australian dentist, who suffered the misfortune of having his site hacked some years previously".

The Australian government is keen to draw parallels between this list and the IWF scheme in the UK. EFA Supporter and Register reader Cameron Watt explained: "A key difference is that it is mandatory, leaving little leeway for ISP’s to make mistakes. That is likely to create a need for greater network complexity and add to the cost overhead.

"It will also be state run, leaving the suspicion that even if people agreed 100% with what is on the list now, a future government might block more widely. There are already suspicions that [Communications Minister] Stephen Conroy is anticipating the result of a landmark copyright case and is thinking of using filtering as a means to block piracy."

Not unsurprisingly, the Australian Sex Party is spitting feathers. Their official blogger writes: "I have just started reading the Enex report into mandatory filtering and my blood is already starting to boil." More seriously, their concern is that if filtering ends up being applied at site level, almost every X-rated site to which Australians have access now will eventually be blocked.

Equally unsurprisingly, the Australian Christian Lobby were supportive of the government announcement, and are nudging already for the principle to be extended further to "deal with other harmful X and R-rated material on the internet". ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
APPLE FAILS to ditch class action suit over ebook PRICE-FIX fiasco
Do not pass go, do cough (up to) $840m in damages
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
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.