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Censorship Australia The Internet Technology

Filter Vendor Agrees Aussie Censorship Can't Work As Promised 143

Posted by timothy
from the packets-resent-blockage dept.
Acidspew writes "The Australian Government's plan to filter the Internet has caused furore and has been met with vehement objection. Many people have put their opinions forward regarding this matter, but this time around, M86 Security — the vendor that provided many ISPs equipment during the initial filter trials — has finally weighed in on the discussion. Six of the nine ISP participants in the URL-based Internet filter trial last year used M86's R3000 filtering kit. According to ARN: 'Internet filtering won't prevent people deliberately looking for inappropriate material from accessing blocked content, according to security vendor M86 Security.' The company continues by saying its filter gear was designed to be implemented into schools and enterprise businesses, not for an entire country. The article also touches on M86's views on censorship."
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Filter Vendor Agrees Aussie Censorship Can't Work As Promised

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:03PM (#31475652)

    .. and has been with vehement objection.

    Did something get filtered out already?

  • by Mortiss (812218) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:06PM (#31475686)

    Unfortunately, it seems that even if God almighty would have stepped down and told Mr. Conroy that filtering of this sort is a bad idea i wouldn't have helped much. However, keep up the pressure and they will relent (do not look at NZ!).

    • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:17PM (#31475780)

      God spoke to Conroy and warned him that a great flood of information was going to engulf the sinners of the world and commanded him to build Virtual Ark 1.0 in which he would put his people into to protect them from the horrors of information.

      • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:53PM (#31476022)

        Shame they couldn't use Virtual Dyke 1.0, but that was filtered out too...

      • ;-)
        Eghads, man!
        You all are doomed in Oz! Doomed I say!

        Everyone knows that Virtual Ark v1.0 is not supported by Web v2.0!!!!

        I wouldn't expect Conroy to know this(from his past escapades), but this sub-contractor/consultant fellow God should have clued him in.
        Or maybe this God fellow only deals with coding for legacy app's? ;-)

        • by TikiTDO (759782)

          Pretty sure that god fellow trolls on 4chan for kicks. Could you really blame him for trolling an entire NATION?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Pretty sure that god fellow trolls on 4chan for kicks. Could you really blame him for trolling an entire NATION?

            Just a tramp like one of us? Just a stranger on a bus trying to make his way home?

      • by svtdragon (917476)
        Amateur. Everyone knows to wait for Virtual Ark 1.0 SP1.
    • by Interoperable (1651953) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:32PM (#31475882)

      A comment posted below article linked to sums up the problem very succinctly:

      "every one of the content types stated by Senator Conroy for implementing the proposed net filter are already illegal in Australia and already filtered by the ACMA blacklist. [...] What Conroy actually wants to block is stuff that isn't determined to be Illegal in Australia but fall under the much much broader category of Refused Classification."

      I think that illegal material should be blocked (it usually is, by removing the associated IP addresses from DNS servers). On the other hand, blocking refused classification material is censorship. The government needs to clearly justify the proposed block for RC material rather than pointing to illegal material to attempt to justify it.

      • by W3bbo (727049) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:53PM (#31476024)
        The problem with blocking "illegal material" is the definition of "illegal material". For example, at what point is a medical textbook photo of a paediatric condition considered "indecent"? From this you can get into debates about intent, and if there's titillating intent is that a "thought crime"?

        Another example is text relating to the formulation of explosive materials: should that be considered "illegal information" too? From this we return to the concept of illegal numbers, then it all starts getting ridiculous.

        I believe it's easier to hold the position that no information or data is inherently illegal, neither should possession (which becomes a strict-liability offence, a can of worms) than to get stuck in the debate of what is and isn't illegal. Besides, if you're really after a piece of information or data then you're eventually going to be able get it.
        • Laws are always careful balancing acts between the rights of the involved parties. If you want to believe that no information can be illegal I think that you could make a good case for your belief, but I don't find the "it's too difficult" argument very compelling. I agree that in many existing definitions of illegal material the correct balance has not been found, but I don't think that the best balance is to be completely permissive. In any case, that's a different debate entirely.

          Like it or not, there ar

        • by Capsaicin (412918) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @07:52PM (#31476534)

          The problem with blocking "illegal material" is the definition of "illegal material".

          Indeed! The point of passing legislation through parliament is to make law. The material being blocked will be "illegal material" by definition.

          Or at least it should be. We won't be able to tell, of course, because the list of what is being blocked is secret. And that is the very worst aspect of the whole scheme.

          For example, at what point is a medical textbook photo of a paediatric condition considered "indecent"?

          To solve this "problem" we have courts. Judges deal with these sorts of marginal cases every day. It's not a big problem. (One doubts that a bona fide medical textbook of paediatric medicine would ever be judged indecent. As the Henson debacle shows, however, the question of 'art' is more vexed). But again, if the list is secret, how will it be subject to curial oversight?

          The real problem is that some random public servant (Sen Fielding's cousin maybe?), will be deciding which site does and which site does not fulfil the legal requirements for being placed on the list AND they will be doing so without the requisite transparency.

          Compare this to how classification is done now. When the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board decide to refuse classification for a film (effectively censoring it), we all know which film has be refused. We can also read the reasons for the decision. We, as a public, can then debate the question of whether the particular item ought, or ought not be refused, and possibly get the decision overturned.

          As the people are the ultimate sovereign in Australia (ACTV v C'th), it is to us that the censors must be answerable. Yet Sen. Conroy proposes not to answer to us. What to do with a servant like that?

          While secrecy might be an operational necessity in matters of national security (as courts recognise), it can hardly be argued that the threat from online information is so serious as to require the abrogation of normal democratic process. We've survived, relatively unscathed, for a decade or so.

          ... the concept of illegal numbers, then it all starts getting ridiculous.

          What is ridiculous about illegal numbers? If the parliament says a number is illegal, (and that parliament has the power to legislate with respect to the legality of numbers), then that number is illegal. It's all terribly straightforward. ;)

          • What is ridiculous about illegal numbers? If the parliament says a number is illegal, (and that parliament has the power to legislate with respect to the legality of numbers), then that number is illegal. It's all terribly straightforward. ;)

            Yes, terribly straightforward. [wikipedia.org]

            • by Capsaicin (412918)

              Yes, terribly straightforward.

              My point precisely. Don't try to understand legality/illegality by reference to physical reality, morality or any other kind of "inherent" quality. Sadly not the best illustration because, as the page you cite states "The bill never became law." I was trying to find a reference to the old NSW Measurement Act, which I believe (but don't quote me) implied that the world was flat (by defining parallel lines, for the purposes of land surveying, as extending on an infinite hori

              • by gd2shoe (747932)

                Sadly not the best illustration because, as the page you cite states "The bill never became law." I was trying to find a reference to the old NSW Measurement Act, which I believe (but don't quote me) implied that the world was flat (by defining parallel lines, for the purposes of land surveying, as extending on an infinite horizontal plane), but it seems to have been repealed in the era before online legislation. :(

                Interesting. I get your point, though my example was legislating a number ;)

                Oh, and the the smiley was there to dispel the notion that this could not in fact lead to situations which might properly be called "ridiculous."

                Yeah, I got that. Likewise I titled my post "Obligatory" to indicate a relevant example. (It doesn't always mean "counterpoint".)

          • by selven (1556643) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:40AM (#31478680)

            So if the majority of the population think censorship is okay, it becomes okay? Sorry, but individuals should NOT be subjected to a tyranny of the majority. If someone wants to look at something that 99% of the population find offensive, he should still have that right. A censorship system controlled by the people would be subject to personal and public tastes and prejudices and not in the public's best interest. As for gray area cases, so far all the judges can come up with to define obscenity is "I know it when I see it." How are people who want to create borderline art supposed to work with that?

            What is obscene and censorable is something that humans are simply incapable of handling, which is why we need a system of hard, bright lines. No censorship at all, no illegal numbers and no illegal works is a good place to start.

            • by Capsaicin (412918) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:40AM (#31478904)

              So if the majority of the population think censorship is okay, it becomes okay?

              As a matter of law, since the public have decided not to restrict the legislature with regard to rights such as freedom of speech, the Australian public is free to have their parliament enact a regime of censorship. You'll note that I wrote that I cannot object "on democratic grounds alone." Those words did not accidentally slip from my keyboard.

              Sorry, but individuals should NOT be subjected to a tyranny of the majority.

              I agree, democracy is the worst from of government! Except, as Churchill pointed out, for all the other systems that have been tried. The choice (well it isn't) is to be subject to the will of the majority (at least in theory), or to be subject to the will of a minority, or a single man or book. In fact you are constantly subject to the will of the (theoretical) majority. But perhaps you live somewhere where a right has been conceded in relation to freedom of speech.

              If someone wants to look at something that 99% of the population find offensive, he should still have that right.

              Where does he get that right from? Remember rights aren't god given or natural, they are historically a concession from those who hold power. Where a People is sovereign, if the people does not give a person a particular right, that person does not have it. What an individual does have, under our legal system is the right (a concession originally from the King), to have their individual case heard based on laws of universal application, not based on their personal popularity of that person or the majority's disposition towards them. Outside that any right you think you have that protects you from the sovereign (whether this be the majority of the public or a dictator) is a mere fantasy.

              A censorship system controlled by the people would be subject to personal and public tastes and prejudices and not in the public's best interest.

              What is in the public's best interest is for the majority constituted as a public to decide. Which is not to say they decide well. As Spike Milligan put it so aptly, "in a democracy the people get the government they deserve, and I get the government they deserve too!"

              As for gray area cases, so far all the judges can come up with to define obscenity is "I know it when I see it."

              That's American law for you. But I don't believe it's relevant here. It is my understanding (and I'm open to correction) that in reviewing classification what judges, or administrative tribunal members, are deciding is not whether an item is "obscene," per se, but whether it depicts violent sexuality, promotes drug use etc etc.

              How are people who want to create borderline art supposed to work with that?

              If anyone wants to create boderline art, surely they absolutely require there to be a censorship regime? It's a of a waste of time working in that area if your work doesn't get banned. But look, actually I agree with you here, artists have an unfairly tough time of it when some morals crusader along with the Murdoch press sets their sights on them.

              [W]e need a system of hard, bright lines. No censorship at all, no illegal numbers and no illegal works is a good place to start.

              Unfortunately the great "We," don't want those particular lines (as much as the simple do like "hard and bright"). In my experience even people who argue against censorship balk at the idea of child porn openly for sale at the local supermarket.

          • by Swampash (1131503)
            The problem with blocking "illegal material" is the definition of "illegal material". In Australia the problem is doubly crazy thanks to the "Refused Classification" (RC) designation. RC material can be perfectly legal, but it will still be blocked.
          • > One doubts that a bona fide medical textbook of paediatric medicine would ever be judged indecent.

            One doubts that a regular, scientific textbook that describes the theory of evolution would ever be judged controversial. In 2010.

          • To solve this "problem" we have courts. Judges deal with these sorts of marginal cases every day. It's not a big problem.

            In theory, no, it is not a big problem. Except for 95% of the population who cannot afford adequate legal representation. Even then, it seems odd that something that is not a big problem costs so god damned much.

            Everyone has pictures of their child in various amounts of clothing. From just after birth as they were sitting on the scale to the ubiquitous bath photos which always seem to

            • by Capsaicin (412918)

              In theory, no, it is not a big problem. Except for 95% of the population who cannot afford adequate legal representation.

              That's a hard statement to reconcile with the recent surge in litigation in Australia. Even so, this is not an area of law that will affect 95% of the population,remember, it's the government that's the potential defendant here.

              Now there is potentially a problem with standing. Australia does not have as liberal a concept of amicus curiae as exists in the US, and the most obvious poten

        • by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Sunday March 14, 2010 @11:00PM (#31478004)
          This warn you. THOUGHTCRIME in docs after. Make Report. If fail to make report, is INFOCRIME. Make Report. If report made on failing to make report, this paradox. Paradox is LOGICRIME. Make Report.
        • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:05AM (#31478324) Homepage

          Production of the material can be quite readily defined as illegal, blocking the material is pointless, pursuing those that create it and publish it, is the obvious point of focus regardless of how difficult it is. Now it other countries don't wish to cooperate in the producers and publishers of that content, simply block the whole country, no selective deceitful censorship, if the production of the content is so harmful then the only true choice is to block the whole country or, is the whole censorship to protect children thing a lie, a huge disgusting corrupt lie.

          It appears the true target of censorship is anything that might harm corporate profits including the truth targeted at false advertising, copyright protection where everything is claimed as being owned by default, of course political dissent and anything eve loosely tied to the concept of 'free' speech.

          The truth is if the want to protect children from the adults internet then they should create a completely separate children's internet, one that's monitored for let's see cyber bullying (children remorselessly targeting other children), late teens targeting early teens for sexual encounters, early teens talking younger more gullible children into doing destructive things and the most evil of all adult marketing executives seeking to psychologically manipulation children into purchasing products via abusive peer pressure and distortions perceptions of what is of true social value. Of course those first ones governments will have no problem tackling but that last one, I'm sure corporate greed via lobbyists and corrupt politicians will do everything in their power so that they can continue to manipulate the choices of children regardless of the psychological or resulting physical harm done to them.

        • by shentino (1139071)

          IMHO, only information that is stolen should be unlawful to possess.

          If you create it yourself, or you get it with the permission of who owns it, no problem.

          This simple rule can cover everything from piracy, to HIPAA violations, to security breaches.

      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Sunday March 14, 2010 @07:00PM (#31476080)

        I think that illegal material should be blocked (it usually is, by removing the associated IP addresses from DNS servers).

        I don't. Slippery slope, and all that. Once the system is in place to remove anything unwanted from the internet, it takes a whole lot of public oversight to prevent from abuse. Remember, politicians are people you know are lying for a living.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)

        I think that illegal material should be blocked (it usually is, by removing the associated IP addresses from DNS servers). On the other hand, blocking refused classification material is censorship.

        Would you care to explain to this dimwitted American the effective difference between "blocking illegal material", blocking material that is "refused classification" and "censorship"? From where I sit, if I can't access a Web address because of government-mandated interference, well ... that material has been censored. What particular arbitrary classification a particular government regime places that information into is irrelevant: I cannot get to it. Governments like to play games with words in order to m

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:25PM (#31477370)

          Well, let's take the usual example of child pornography. This material is clearly illegal under current Australian law, and as such it's a criminal offence to produce, possess or distribute it.

          So if that material is blocked, that's "blocking illegal material". It's censorship, yes, but if the process is subject to public oversight, no big deal - so long as a process exists by which it can be guaranteed that all the material that is blocked is illegal, there's no big deal, it's just a government enforcing the law.

          Now if material is "refused classification", that's slightly different. That then becomes a matter of state law - in some states, it's illegal to possess, whilst in others it's only illegal to sell. For instance, if a resident of Western Australia were to possess an uncensored copy of Left 4 Dead 2, that would be illegal, whilst the same act is legal here in New South Wales.

          This IS censorship, and the whole idea of refusing a work classification is offensive. This is material which hasn't broken any laws, but which has been deemed offensive by a review board. For films, this isn't a problem - there's an X18+ classification which covers anything which is offensive but not illegal (well, usually. Some of our laws are pretty vague). But notably, games don't have such a rating, so we can't have Left 4 Dead 2, or any game which mentions the name of real drugs, or any number of other things (Aliens Vs Predator was recently refused classification here, but, for the first time in nearly 2 years, won an appeal on the grounds that the violence was justified within the fantastical Science Fiction setting).

          The whole system is riddled with problems. Material which is offensive but not sexual in nature (ie. violence) can be awarded R18+. Material which is offensive but not violent in nature (ie. porn) can be awarded X18+. Material which happens to be both (ie. porn with a plot), even if the violence is not of an offensive nature, is eligible for neither classification.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Capsaicin (412918)

            Now if material is "refused classification", that's slightly different. That then becomes a matter of state law

            Not just state law. The Classification Board and Classification Review Board act under the aegis of the Federal Attorney General's Dept. But yes, the states are free to enact their own control regimes.

            This IS censorship, and the whole idea of refusing a work classification is offensive. This is material which hasn't broken any laws, but which has been deemed offensive by a review board.

            Not so

          • >

            The whole system is riddled with problems. Material which is offensive but not sexual in nature (ie. violence) can be awarded R18+. Material which is offensive but not violent in nature (ie. porn) can be awarded X18+. Material which happens to be both (ie. porn with a plot), even if the violence is not of an offensive nature, is eligible for neither classification.

            I have heard a funny example of this in action, although I haven't checked if it is true: a porno based on /Pirates of the Caribbean/ which has graphic sex scenes (which would get it an R18+ rating) and mild swashbuckling violence and mild fantasy horror (which would get it an M15 or MA15+ rating) combine to give it an X18+ rating (which is heavily restricted, even compared to R18+), even though I am told that there is never any fighting in the sex scenes.

        • Okay. If you access refused classification material you are within your rights to do so. If you access illegal material (child porn, for instance) the FBI may show up at your door and arrest you because you have committed a crime. Blocking of either is censorship, but I have no problem with the later class of material being blocked. What is considered illegal and what is refused classification is a different debate entirely (if you want to argue that possession of child porn should be legal, go for it).

        • by Capsaicin (412918)

          Would you care to explain to this dimwitted American the effective difference between "blocking illegal material", blocking material that is "refused classification" and "censorship"? From where I sit, if I can't access a Web address because of government-mandated interference, well ... that material has been censored. What particular arbitrary classification a particular government regime places that information into is irrelevant: I cannot get to it.

          It may be irrelevant to you, however to those of us wh

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Unfortunately, it seems that even if God almighty would have stepped down and told Mr. Conroy that filtering of this sort is a bad idea i wouldn't have helped much.

      Chances are he turned to God, looked down at him and sneered "You a god? I am my own god. I will ignore the drivel coming from a being such as you".

      Most people consider good and bad to be two extremes of a straight line. I see them as opposing points on a circle. If you go too far one way there is a chance that you will end up where you didn't me

      • Most people consider good and bad to be two extremes of a straight line. I see them as opposing points on a circle. If you go too far one way there is a chance that you will end up where you didn't mean to be. The best place is somewhere in the middle, IMHO. No, its not a perfect view, but what is?

        Sounds similar to the concept of the Yin-Yang [wikipedia.org], although that's dealing with much more than just good and bad. I feel it ranks among the most sophisticated ways of seeing the world.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          I feel it ranks among the most sophisticated ways of seeing the world.

          I was always taught that looking at the world in black and white was a bad thing.

    • by charm101 (1767314)
      I think God would give Mr. Conroy a spank so he would be awaken with his slumber. -Turning Winds [slashdot.org]
  • Nice upscale for M86's filtering tech, designed to nanny kids, scaled up to nanny the whole country.

  • Pull the plug... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:13PM (#31475746)

    If the filter vendor agrees this is a rogue use of their technology... why are they cashing the check?

    Ban the use of the software that way in the TOS, and the Aussie government can go jump in a lake!

    Better yet, send out a rogue update to their servers where it disables the whole internet for the whole country... pirate software users don't have any reason to expect the software is going to behave honestly.

    If you do something that tweaks a software vendor, there's no telling that they're not going to tweak you back.

    Copyright has no requirement for publishing... there's some works done just to put it in a box and make sure nobody else can do the same.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So you're telling me you wouldn't cash a huge cheque if the government handed it to you on a silver fucking platter? Fuck off you git.
      • So you're telling me you wouldn't cash a huge cheque if the government handed it to you on a silver fucking platter? Fuck off you git.

        No, I wouldn't. In fact I believe I have the ethical obligation to ensure that the product of my work is not used for unethical purposes.

        That's the ethical side of things, now for the business side of things.

        If I sold a product which I advertised could do X, and the government came in and purchased huge numbers of my product with the intention to do Y and I knew it could not

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      If the filter vendor agrees this is a rogue use of their technology... why are they cashing the check?

      To answer to this specific question: it is called "Limited warranty", more specific the "Fitness to the purpose" disclaimer.
      If a customer is stupid enough to still insist paying for something it was publicly warned is not fit for a certain purpose, I reckon the supplier should be even more stupid not to take the money and provide the goods.

      This is not to say that ozzies should accept a minister that persists in making stupid decision (but if they do, they'll worth their faith).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canajin56 (660655)
      What the hell are you smoking? Rogue use? Australia pirated the software? Somehow turning into copyright means you have the right to steal your stuff back, just like OJ? TFA says they agree with the idea, but don't think it will work very well, since determined people will find their way around any firewall. Nowhere does it say they even disagree at all. As for "why are they cashing the cheque", they aren't, RFTA

      M86 has yet to settle on pricing should it chose to supply technology for the proposed In

    • by jonwil (467024)

      If this company said no, it wouldn't stop the filter, all it would do is to lead to the contract going to someone else.

    • by deniable (76198)

      Ban the use of the software that way in the TOS, and the Aussie government can go jump in a lake!

      And the next story here, Evil Network Vendor Prohibits fair use with EULA.

      Better yet, send out a rogue update to their servers where it disables the whole internet for the whole country

      Yeah, ever heard of the AFP? These guys will be investigating the case and will have a very strong need to find someone to punish. Hint: it won't be a politician.

      ... pirate software users don't have any reason to expect the software is going to behave honestly.

      Section 183 of the copyright act. They're not pirates. For the Americans in the audience, think eminent domain.

    • If the filter vendor agrees this is a rogue use of their technology... why are they cashing the check?

      I'm impressed. LostCluster managed to spell "rogue" correctly not once but twice. Not that I have anything against rouge.

  • Fuck its a DOS! (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by headkase (533448)
    Fuck, did I just fucking get slashdot fucking filtered in Australia? Well, to celebrate that possibility please watch this clip: Fuckity fuck fuck [youtube.com]. Seriously, what happens with user generated content and naughty words? Easy denial of service?
  • Censorship ALWAYS eliminates freedom. Terrorism only eliminates freedom if the affected citizens allow it to.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Censorship ALWAYS eliminates freedom. Terrorism only eliminates freedom if the affected citizens allow it to.

      Terrorism causes the loss of freedom by politicians.

    • This comment implies that all freedom is beneficial. I am not free to murder strangers, nor publish child pornography - yet I would consider these restrictions on freedom beneficial.

  • Sounds like a PR job by M86 getting in a pre-emptive 'not my fault' for when this all goes South. I cannot say I blame them because it doesn't take much stretching of the imagination to see the finger pointing that would go on if this all fell through. I would not want my company blamed for other people’s incompetence either.
  • Confusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:36PM (#31475908)
    See now, I'm confused by where the article states that the filtering is predominantly aimed at preventing kids from accidentally stumbling on child pornography. Now, it strikes me that given that such images are strictly illegal pretty much everywhere it's actually quite difficult to 'accidentally stumble' on.

    In fact, the mere fact that the article then goes on to say that criminals already have ways around it that are not prevented by this kind of filtering suggests to me that you're not going to just enter keywords somewhere and have it show up.

    The whole premise of the network filter - stopping kids from accidentally finding kiddy pron - is utter baloney. If it was so easy for a kid to find it accidentally, law enforcement wouldn't need to go to such measures to shut it down.

    'Think of the children' is, as always, an excuse. Given that's not the real goal of the filter, one can imagine what the actual purpose might be.
    • by kaptink (699820)

      The proposed filter has nothing to do with the practicality of removing such things as pornography, assisted suicide, illicit drug information. It is simply selling the idea that these things will no longer be accessable by children. A recent poll found that most everyday Australians didn't really care too much about the idea of a manditory filter and thought it would be a good idea in the sense that it would protect children. This is exactly what the government wants and is marketing too. And the christian

    • Re:Confusion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Techman83 (949264) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @07:03PM (#31476112)
      I know that, you know that and I'm willing to bet even Senator Conroy is aware of that. Considering that he's been buddying up with the media companies on every front (reducing tv license fees, skiing with the head of one of the stations, backing big media in the iinet trial), that the filter, in it's current state, will certainly become the thin edge of the wedge.

      I watched "The Boat That Rocked" again the other night, and It reminded me that history seems to have a way of repeating itself. It may not be rock 'n roll this time, but it is certainly something the powers at be don't fully understand and cannot control. This scares them.
    • Re:Confusion (Score:5, Informative)

      by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @07:18PM (#31476234)

      As someone who used to work in a filtering company...

      The point of a filter to nanny kids is not to stop kids finding porn. It's to stop them wasting their time in school using sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc. This kind of nannying is also useful for keeping an eye on your employees and making sure they don't spend all day on Facebook. Quotas can be enforced, access patterns allowing certain sites during certain times can be configured.

      The filter does a reasonable job of ensuring things like Google's safe search are always forced to on and stopping users accidentally stumbling on things they shouldn't. We had filter categories like 'porn', 'hate speech' and 'terrorism' which could be used to block a fair amount of stuff but that kind of automated decision making is not perfect and stuff slips through - even without a sufficiently determined attacker trying. It's just not possible to automatically block everything bad. The more accurate your automated blocking, the more intensive the CPU and memory requirements.

      It is possible, and reasonably cheap to block access to a number of known bad URLs. This is only possible if the blocker also controls the gateway firewall and only allows HTTP traffic to pass through it. If any other traffic is allowed to pass through the gateway we have immediate back doors (SSL, VPNs, SSH tunnels, TOR, etc) available to us.

      SSL-based traffic can be snooped with an intermediate key, but you also need to get a wildcard certificate to match. That's been proven fairly easy to do. If you control all machines behind your filter you can also have them trust your dodgy CA and issue your own certificate. What's interesting enough is that most users simply click away at SSL warnings until they get to the site anyway. No matter how annoying the browser is about it users just want their content.

      I see the most serious point of contention here is that people's banking and other fairly personal details will be inside the filter/proxy UNENCRYPTED. This means that a 3rd party has access to that and if the system is exploited so does any number of evil parties. I lost interest when I stopped being in the industry to an extent, but Conroy had initially wanted to disect SSL traffic as well. Did he go ahead with that requirement?

      Censorship on a whole country level is silly idea; there's too many back doors unless the country wants to restrict information flow to HTTP-only, which would have a devastating effect on the Internet. Even China isn't that strict and there exist dissidents who use technology to get around the Internet filters there.

      • I lost interest when I stopped being in the industry to an extent, but Conroy had initially wanted to disect SSL traffic as well. Did he go ahead with that requirement?

        Nope, thankfully, he's given up on the idea of filtering anything but port 80. I don't know what any of the tested filers would do if you put any other type of traffic on that port (I suspect it would get re-routed to the bit bucket), but even plain HTTP on any other port is currently to be completely unfiltered.

        I think the banks and other big businesses told him how important encrypted traffic is.

    • "Green shares Prime Minister Kevin Rudd&rsquo;s sentiments regarding the need to protect citizens against &lsquo;indecent&rsquo; material but questions how far the filter will go in terms of deciding what content to block."

      How about you let the people decide what's indecent and then protect themselves from said material. And while you're at it go tell the nanny state to STFU and mind their own fking buisiness. You can't keep people from accessing "INDECENT" material if that's what they want to s
  • highly unusual (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stimpleton (732392) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @06:51PM (#31476008)
    The fact this vendor has announced this is highly unusual. I think they have been burned:

    a. Either their involvement in Australia has cost them other more valuable contracts.
    b. They mis-stepped and are being forced to maintain the system beyond their expectations.

    Either way, I suspect this contract is now a ball & chain around their ankle. They want out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mikael (484)

      I think it is (b).

      Two alternative news media websites were blocked accidentally:

      Thankfully, this draconian measure does not effect all internet users in New Zealand however. It appears to be confined to those whose internet server providers, (ISPs), use Asia Netcom for their international internet traffic. Telstraclear, Vodafone and Worldxchange Communications users are not effected, while Woosh, Orcon, Slingshot, Telecom and Ihug users are.

      An avid fan of Infowars.com and a 9/11 truth activist, Jeff Mitch

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      They aren't maintaining the system at all, because it doesn't even exist yet. They're not saying they are against it, they are saying they are totally for it to protect the children. They just want to make it clear that all it will do is stop casual browsers from finding child porn, but that determined individuals will always find away around filters. As in every article, Slashdot made up an almost entirely fictional summary to go along with TFA.
  • The man has shown he has no regard for what Australians want.

    • by Samah (729132)

      Won't stop Palpatine err I mean Conroy...

      Stephen Conroy: Something, something, something, DARK SIDE.
      Michael Atkinson: Something, something, something, COMPLETE.

  • the URL-based Internet filter

    Really? That’s really dumb!
    I don’t see my instant messenger using URLs to send messages. Just IP addresses. Which can go to proxies too. Etc, etc.

    Nice to see the incompetency of government work for us for a change. ^^

  • XS4ALL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RogerWilco (99615) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @08:01PM (#31476628) Homepage Journal

    In related news, I want to add that the biggest and oldest ISP of The Netherlands (XS4ALL) has also taken a stand against internet filtering. Unfortunately the site and documents are only available in Dutch:
    http://www.xs4all.nl/overxs4all/maatschappelijk/dossiers/downloaden.php [xs4all.nl]

    What they have done is write a very thorough 32 page document explaining why internet filtering should not happen. It centers around a couple of arguments:
    - It's very expensive
    - It introduces single points of failure and bottlenecks, doing the opposite of what an ISP should be doing
    - It can't work without also blocking a lot of legal content, no matter what method you choose
    - Blocking legal content and censorship is against the idea of free speech, but more specifically the Dutch constitution and the European treaty on human rights.

    It's really well written, I wish there would be an English version. It's well worth the read.

    They have sent this to all Dutch political parties and the committee for copyright legislation. I was very happy to see them get involved in this discussion. We're having national elections next june, and it looks like at least some political parties are picking this up and making it a point in the elections.

    • It's really well written, I wish there would be an English version. It's well worth the read

      Courtesy Google's Language Tools, link to translation here [google.com.au].

      • by RogerWilco (99615)

        While a valiant effort, Google translate gets a little lost in the translation, especially of the 32 page detailed PDF.

        I wish I had time to do a proper translation myself, but it's such an extensive document, with very intricately language, trying to explain details of law and technology to politicians, that the automatic translation makes a bit of a mess of it. Some of it might still be understandable, but other parts are pure gibberish.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by RogerWilco (99615)

        I've made a translation based upon your link of the page I link to:

        Position of XS4ALL on (il)legal downloading:

        Now everyone has access to a broadband Internet connection, consumers changed how they interact with entertainment, music and movies because they themselves can now download and watch whenever and wherever they want. Because the entertainment industry still has not sufficiently adapted to the changes that the Internet brings, many consumers download without paying. To prevent this, there are people

    • by aXis100 (690904)

      All good reasons but I think the best ones are:

      5) It doesnt work - anyone who wants to bypass the filters can use an encypted protocol or VPN

      6) Anything actually badly illegal (eg kiddy porn) does not need require filtering. It gets terminated by federal/international police shortly after it is found.

      • by RogerWilco (99615)

        Your point 5 is my third point. You would have to block all encrypted traffic.

        They do make this point, but I think it's not going to be the key in this discussion, or the discussion would not exist.

  • Our internet filter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 14, 2010 @09:06PM (#31477218)

    I am posting as anon because I do not want anyone to know who I am, however, I do know people involved in this project and I know what I am about to say is true. It is designed to be a rudimentary fix to a possible political problem the govt will inevitably face from the conservatives in the opposition when the new NBN (National Broadband Network - a fibre to the home network for almost all homes, work places and institutions) has been rolled out.

    You see the Labor govt has young(ish) knowledgeable tech savvy people working for it. Most of the opposition have no idea how to use the expensive tech that they have access to as ministers. The opposition screwed up our whole telecoms sector while they were in Govt, and the Labor plan is to replace the entire telephone network in Australia with a proper data network (not a phone network), and separate wholesale and retail arms of the sector. This should have been done 10-15 years ago - it is projected to cost around 42 billion $AUS.

    Labor is also giving children in all govt schools laptops to use instead of their normal books.

    The opposition will inevitably ask why the Labor govt irresponsibly connected children to the porno-interwebs and use a family values scare campaign. The IP blocking filter doesn't work the way you think it should, and they all know it, and they don't care. When primary school kids hook up their laptops to the NBN, or the police, or the hospitals (patients and staff alike) - they will have to actually *want* to subvert the firewall to access this stuff......and politically - that is enough for Labor to point the finger back at the user, and tell them it is not the Govt fault, and the user should be held responsible. Oh and as far as I am aware - there is not law that will penalize you if you do get around the firewall.....no one is going to arrest you (like in China or other less liberal countries).

    I actually agree with this approach. I do, however, think that the list should be publicly available, blocked sites should have the right to ask why their site is blocked, and a system of appeal to get it unblocked. I also think that people in Australia should understand that while we do not have a bill of rights, we do not have an explicit right to free speech......so ask your pollies why they haven't introduced one yet (Victoria has one...but it is a bit crap ).

    • by Wuhao (471511) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:11AM (#31478348)

      This is a dangerous door that you're opening here. Let's take your assertion at face value. Let's say that the firewall is indeed defective by design; that Australians are meant to be able to bypass it should they have the desire; and there is no law punishing you for bypassing it. What makes you so sure that it will stay that way?

      Do you really believe that no one will notice that the firewall doesn't work? When they do, do you think they'll a) say "whoops, this was a mistake" and tear it down, b) say "eh, shucks, leave it be," or c) say "GOOD HEAVENS THE CHILDREN" and try to "fix" it? If you said b), then you've just stalled. What will they do next year? Lather, rinse, repeat until they take one of the more conclusive options. It'll be a) or c), and once you have that damn firewall in place, a) will be political suicide. That leaves c).

      On a technical level, secure Internet filtering for censorship does not work, and never will work. When the technical consultants come back and say this time and again, moralizing politicians will stop looking for technical solutions, and start looking to more traditional ones: fines and jail sentences. It will be a crime to visit certain websites, and the infrastructure will be in place for the government to find out that you did it. It won't be perfect. It will still be perfectly evil.

      This seems like a mighty steep price tag for fast Internet and laptops for school kids.

      • > Do you really believe that no one will notice that the firewall doesn't work?

        This is my biggest fear. The moment the thing is turned on the news papers and current affairs shows will have a field day showing 12 year olds happily bypassing the filter without so much as blinking an eye lid, and doubtless a crowd of semi-legitimate software vendors and web sites will spring up offering "filter bypass" services / products / plugins / proxies etc.

        The Government, humiliated by its own incompetence is

    • by stub667 (1603191)

      And letting people select if they want filtered or unfiltered content when they subscribe to a service wouldn't provide the same warm fuzzies? You could even mandate public and workplace systems get filtered if you want.

      The current plan should die because my freedoms are being removed by other peoples morals and potentially other peoples political opinions. I currently live in a country with censored Internet and know just how pointless and annoying this filtering is. There is just too much outcry when you

    • by Antarius (542615)

      The opposition screwed up our whole telecoms sector while they were in Govt, and the Labor plan is to replace the entire telephone network in Australia with a proper data network (not a phone network), and separate wholesale and retail arms of the sector. This should have been done 10-15 years ago - it is projected to cost around 42 billion $AUS.

      Sorry to burst your bubble there, Mr Troll, but your precious Labor party is just as responsible for our telecommunications debacle as the Libs are.

      Back in the

    • by KenMcM (1293074)
      Maybe this could have been the motive for the filter when it was planned to use the ACMA blacklist, which is designed for children. Now that it only filters RC, the opposition could ask the same question. Why did you give a laptop to Little Mikey with a fibreoptic connection to boobies? Why does your filter not protect Mikey from boobies?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sparx139 (1460489)

      I actually agree with this approach.

      I disagree. The Liberals released the NetAlert opt-in, downloadable filter back when they were in power. It fell flat on it's face - nobody downloaded it, and it was broken within two days by a teenager. But at least it kept to the principles of democracy. Repeat after me:
      There are better ways to deal with "protecting the children" then creating a police state
      There are better ways to deal with "protecting the children" then creating a police state
      There are better ways to deal with "protecting the childr

  • The original report from the trial, mentioned in the summary, said this very thing. Yet the government called it a glorious success and rushed through decisions to implement it.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." -- John Wooden

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