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Censorship Australia The Internet Your Rights Online

Australia Waters Down, Delays Internet Filter Policy 122

Posted by timothy
from the weak-sauce dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Looks like Australia's government is running a bit scared of a population enraged by its controversial mandatory filtering project. The Government today announced a suite of measures designed to provide controls around the filter project, including independent oversight and a review of content which would be included. In addition, some Australian ISPs will voluntarily censor any child pornography URLs. But the whole project is still going ahead — it's just been delayed and slightly modified."
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Australia Waters Down, Delays Internet Filter Policy

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  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:55AM (#32847862) Homepage Journal

    I plan to put all Labour senators last, and to put the Greens ahead of labour in the lower house.

  • With an election looming, the government can't afford to alienate anybody as their chances of re-election are marginal at best. Every vote will count.
    • by Swampash (1131503)

      That's not how it works.

      The government can afford to alienate just about anybody except a voter in a marginal seat. Your vote means dick in a seat where the government has a big majority or would never win anyway, but if it's touch-and-go THEN your vote counts.

      The trouble is, most marginal seats are populated by demographics that don't care about Rich People's Problems (see: anything to do with computers). They care about THOSE DIRTY NIGGER/RAGHEAD/CURRYMUNCHER IMMIGRANTS COMIN' TO TUK ER JEB. So, as we get

  • Well dont Australia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CommanderEl (765634) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:02AM (#32847878)
    Massive props to the major ISP's in Australia for standing up and showing the Government with action, what is the best course of action for Australia and it's citizens.
    .
    It's really disappointing listening to the arguments from the Labor government as to why Australia needs an internet filter. Tugging on the heart strings of the parents promising to "help protect their children" with a defunct solution.
    .
    I congratulate every Australian working hard to petition and protest about their rights and what is good for Australia. The people have spoken.
    • But [theage.com.au]

      In the meantime, major ISPs - including Optus, Telstra and iPrimus - have pledged to block child-abuse websites voluntarily. This narrower, voluntary approach has long been advocated by internet experts and brings Australia into line with other countries such as Britain.

      • That article doesn't change what I said. The major ISP's are having an influence on what happens here. This somewhat interim solution is a much more effective solution to the percieved problem.
      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:18AM (#32847936)
        To place a rebuttal on your "but" (FTFA):

        The use of a standardised block page notification, which will allow ISPs to notify users that the content that have requested has been blocked, and how to see a review of the block

        This I can live with. It basically says:
        Yes, the site you wanted exists, but it's on a no-no list, so you can't see it. This is why (link to review of site). Don't agree with the review? Complain.

        That seems to be somewhat more "filtering I can live with" even as a pretty outspoken libertarian :)

        • But done that way the filter is easy to circumvent. Write a browser extension or spider which registers blocked pages with an external https mirror. Once they tell you a page is blocked (rather than just not there) the filter doesn't really exist.

        • by mjwx (966435) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:35AM (#32848014)

          That seems to be somewhat more "filtering I can live with" even as a pretty outspoken libertarian :)

          Except we don't know if the list is secret or not.

          Those behind the filter do not want people to know what is being blocked as "it lets people know where child porn is". It's almost as if they have some delusional idea that if people know about child porn they'll instantly become paedophiles. This has the effect of hiding false positives.

          Rant aside, all this will end up being is a button on my iinet control panel saying "do you want to take part in voluntary filtering (_)YES (_)NO" and if it becomes a pain the "NO" box will get ticked by default.

          • by deniable (76198)
            What I haven't heard argued much is "If the filter is as reliable as Conroy says it is, what good would having the list do us anyway?" As in, here's a list of things you can't access, feel free to test the filter.
            • I'm pretty sure that even Conroy isn't stupid enough to think that the filter will work as well as he claims.

              Also, he could be concerned about the effects of the list of blocked sites being used by people in other countries to track down whatever nasties there are.

        • by tehcyder (746570)
          But how can you review the site if you can't access it?
          • The classifications board will review the site. When he says review it'll be some boxes checked off detailing what sort of banned material there is.

  • and slowly bringing it to a boil.
    Seems like that has been happening all over the world the last few years. Phase things in gradually so people don't notice, but always under false pretence. But what does in it matter to the government? There will never be another revolution of any kind because now they have the technology to stop any kind of uprising (isn't the constitution against the government keeping a standing army?)
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      Except that's not what's happening. The frog has become a little distressed. The scientist has turned down the temperature slightly.

      Chances are that any opposition government will realise cancelling this is a vote winner (the present government has a choice between looking weak or continuing with an unpopular policy).
    • This is a story about Australia, a country that is not owned by the US (also the standing armies bit was a gripe from the Declaration of Independence about violations of longstanding British custom and established laws, etc, etc). As a bonus, here's the unabridged Aussie constitution:

      G'day mate. All swagmen have the right to take jumbucks by the billabong, Vegemite shall be the national food, every mention of Australia must be accompanied by a picture of the Sydney Opera House [wikimedia.org], and Michael Atkinson must be a douche. Now, let's all hop inside some kangaroo pouches and ride our way to the future. Also, those Kiwi's from New Zealand can suck it!

      They seem like a rowdy bunch. It's a good thing they've got their own island.

  • Don't be fooled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmiller (581) <djm&mindrot,org> on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:12AM (#32847916) Homepage

    The changes announced today seem to be little more than a delaying tactic to remove the issue of mandatory Internet censorship from the agenda ahead of the election that is expected to be announced any day now. This issue has turned quite toxic for the government; the people who are for it are only weakly so, but the people who are against it are furious and are already organising campaigns against the government on various social media.

    I don't think the government can be trusted not to bring it back in a essentially unmodified form after the next election. Vote accordingly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cimexus (1355033)

      Agreed. Those opposing the filter (i.e. any thinking person who knows a bit about technology and the Internet) should be pleased with their efforts so far. This is fantastic news ... and it's actually a much bigger backflip than the summary alludes to (for some reason, /. always tends to overstate any 'filtering will happen' news, and understate any 'filtering is looking like it probably won't happen' news - "delayed" in political terms means "possibly never going to happen, depending on feedback we get/ele

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jamesh (87723)

      The changes announced today seem to be little more than a delaying tactic to remove the issue of mandatory Internet censorship from the agenda ahead of the election that is expected to be announced any day now.

      I view it more as a strategic backdown while trying to save whatever dignity they have left. I think most people in the industry knew it was flawed from the start and would never come off.

      I don't think the government can be trusted not to bring it back in a essentially unmodified form after the next election. Vote accordingly.

      You can be sure I will. Unfortunately there are other issues at stake that trump internet access.

      • by SQL Error (16383)

        You can be sure I will. Unfortunately there are other issues at stake that trump internet access.

        Issues on which Labor has a sound position? Name one.

        I doubt that the Liberals would be significantly better; however, I doubt that they'd be significantly worse. And they won't be Labor, which is a big plus.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bug1 (96678)
        If you live in Victoria then you can vote below the line and Put Conroy last for Labor, no need to change which party you vote for.

        See http://filter-conroy.org/ [filter-conroy.org] for more info
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aussie_a (778472)

      So we have a choice between a censored internet or becoming slaves to corporate overlords. This is the issue with the two party system.

      • Well you wouldn't want the wrong lizard to get into power.
      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)

        So we have a choice between a censored internet or becoming slaves to corporate overlords. This is the issue with the two party system.

        Are we talking about the same country here? This article is about Australia, not the United States. Australia is not a 2 party system. While there are two parties that are larger than the others the National Party, the Greens and Family First all have sentators. Granted only one of those three has representatives, the National Party, which is for most purposes the right wing end of the Liberal Party, but the point should be clear. By most standards Australia doesn't have a two party system (if you want deal

        • by aussie_a (778472)

          As great as the other parties are, only Labour and Liberal ever win the election. So its effectively a two party system, with a few others thrown in that sometimes help. Sometimes.

    • by yuna49 (905461)

      You may be surprised to hear that I saw nothing about the Internet filtering issues when Gillard took office. At the time I was in Europe and reading the International Herald-Tribune and the Financial Times. The conflicts over carbon trading and the mining tax were the ones described in the foreign media as the keys to Rudd's departure. Here's a representative sample from another, well-respected paper: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/0624/Julia-Gillard-takes-helm-in-Australia-after-Kevin [csmonitor.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But customer of both Optus and Telstra will be unable to opt-out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cimexus (1355033)

      True but there are many other ISPs. So your 'opt out' in that situation is churning to another ISP. Plenty of ISPs wholesale Telstra services, so if you can get Telstra you can get service through another ISP ... one exception to that is the Telstra and Optus HFC (cable) networks I suppose. But that will eventually become redundant anyway as the NBN rolls out and you will be able to choose any ISP in any location in Australia.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sucks for people like some of my friends who have no alternatives to either Telstra or Optus cable.

        • by aussie_a (778472)

          Go with ADSL. Cable isn't worth having to put up with the jackasses at Telstra. As someone who once had cable and has moved on to ADSL, there is little difference and the benefits far outweigh the minor loss in speed.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        True but there are many other ISPs. So your 'opt out' in that situation is churning to another ISP

        Not all of us can do. Example:
        – in the present - residents in the Telstra's Smart Communities [telstra.com.au] - wired with Optical Fiber to the premises, all the comm infrastructure (phone and Digital TV included) is owned by Telstra, no other ISP can get into
        – in the future - who is going to operate the NBN for the remote areas? Will they be able to churn?

        Another thing that upsets me: I'm not able to know what are the entries in the black-list (and no, I'm not referring to KP). TFA states:

        The use of a standardised block page notification, which will allow ISPs to notify users that the content that have requested has been blocked, and how to see a review of the block

        Now, that would

    • by jamesh (87723) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:05AM (#32848112)

      I can just imagine the call to Telstra to opt-out... "Yes valued customer, we will be happy to take you off of our internet filter and place you on our 'pervert' plan. Please download the necessary forms and fill in the exact nature of your perversion. Your next payment will be identified as 'Telstra Internet Pervert Plan' on your bank statement, in extra bold print. You can be sure that Telstra will be the first to give up your details when the government is hunting down potential internet predators. Thankyou for calling Telstra, you sick bastard."

    • by jobst (955157)

      But customer of both Optus and Telstra will be unable to opt-out.

      that is not true ... they CAN go somewhere else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by c0lo (1497653)

        But customer of both Optus and Telstra will be unable to opt-out.

        that is not true ... they CAN go somewhere else.

        Like what? Take their home and leave the community [telstra.com.au]? (fyi: that's the only downside in my eyes of the area I'm living: everything in communications is Telstra only - the only wire is Telstra's optical fiber, no mobile but Telstra's has coverage. Cannot install a satellite dish - would cast a shadow on my solar panels).

  • Mission succeeded (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You want to place restrictions on the internet, but you know people wont like it. Now - just place those restrictions is not going to work, because people would protest and you would have to remove everything.

    What to do?

    Well - Give a very harsh restricted policy and everybody jumps up and down and jells...

    Now - water down a bit, and people are going to be happy and like you again. They have forgotten they did not want anything in the first place and are happy it turned out lighter than feared.

    Result? You ha

  • by mjwx (966435) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:20AM (#32847942)
    For a long time now I've said that this will be kicked around parliament with no real action being taken. Every time KRudd bought it in the last year up he faced a rebellion from the back bench from those MP's who relied on a narrow margin to keep their seats. Gillard has not gone one way or the other remaining ambiguous on the subject (she's a lawyer after all). I don't think Labor needs the fundie vote and Abott is more likely to get the fundies on side with Gillard being "non-religious" but Labor is not willing to alienate any voters at this point in time.

    This bill will get kicked around some more and dismissed or watered down so much that it's never truly implemented. With any luck, Conroy will lose his seat in the senate (dearest Victorians, this is your problem, we westies have our hands full supporting the nations economy right now) and a Labor/Green coalition will remain in power. I have no doubt the ACL (Australian Christian Lobby) will pressure Tony Abott to implement some kind of filter if he wins and I don't think Abott has the stones to deny the ACLs request.
  • Well, at least it's good to hear the concept of "separation of power", as developed by ancient Greeks as a model of democratic governance, is still in full swing downunder! No matter what everyone thinks about filtering and the so called freedom of speech (I personally think we have such an increasing amount of shit in our brains, filtering out child porn isn't going to revolutionize anything, though my take is that it's a good thing). Anyone whining about potential issues with your rights - take a few deep
  • Going by the Shotgun testing of the Filter trials by Tennex, the scope adjustments mid-project allowing the trials to complete with a 100% success rate, the lack of consulting from the Ministers Office to Telstra, Optus, iiNet and other major networking players, I'm worried we will see a similar thing with the RC review.

    Who will review it? What will be done to ensure that the review will be transparent and all voices can participate and it won't be a front for the Australian Christian Lobby or Family First

  • by eld101 (1566533)
    Why don't people in China and Australia just get Cheap Linux Servers [linode.com] in the US and just tunnel into them when they want to hit some blocked content? I use mine whenever I travel and/or use public wifi. Then I know anything I do on the web is encrypted until it his my server in NJ.
    • Thanks for that. Be back after I've signed on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smasha (1849308)

      Why don't people in China and Australia just get Cheap Linux Servers [linode.com] in the US and just tunnel into them when they want to hit some blocked content? I use mine whenever I travel and/or use public wifi. Then I know anything I do on the web is encrypted until it his my server in NJ.

      That is a valid way of bypassing the filter, but the main point is that we shouldn't have to resort to anything like that to be able to view the internet uncensored.

  • www.kiddiporn.com? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gizmonty (1636241)
    Child pornography URLs? Really?
  • by igb (28052) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:42AM (#32848046)
    The UK has an effective system which enjoys largely popular support. An independent organisation, with clear governance, provides a list of URLs that contain illegal content. Those URLs are blocked on a voluntary basis by consumer ISPs. The performance hit is a red herring: the technology used is two-stage, so only the IP numbers that are hosting the material are proxied (it's done by injecting local /32 routes to a transparent proxy, mostly). Although there's an iron fist in the velvet glove of voluntary filtering, in that government has threatened to legislate, in reality every ISP is on board. Business connections may or may not be so filtered.

    There have been fuck-ups, most notably the Virgin Killer affair which (a) revealed that Wikipedia doesn't play nicely with ISP-level proxying and (b) there are edge-cases in the law on child porn. The argument that the record cover in question isn't child porn is weak, but the whole affair was mis-handled.

    Is the system perfect? No. Because it was never intended to be. A proxy or an https tunnel or any number of other things will subvert it. The effect is more straight-forward: it removes the ``oh, I stumbled over it accidentally'' defence, and prevents pressure to impose filtering for anything other than illegality. In the grand British spirit of compromise (which tends not to sit well with the American desire for 100% legal clarity) it does a reasonable job reasonably, and if it lost public confidence it would rapidly have to adapt.

    The Australian problem is that (a) it's being imposed by legislative fiat, rather than emerging from industry debate (the UK system arose from a couple of the major ISPs) (b) Australia has some states that are culturally conservative that the central government isn't prepared to overrule (a problem we don't have in the UK) and (c) there's a skein of support for strong censorship that neither the UK nor the US suffers from.

    • by uberjeep (1667223)
      A couple of questions: 1) Does the British ISP level filtering cause any reduction in speeds? 2) Wouldn't the presence of a botnet trojan on a seized computer establish some reasonable doubt as to whether the owner chose to download the files? It seems to me there are still going to be legal grey areas. 3) How much does it cost? 4) Is it worth it?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by badfish99 (826052)

        1. No, presumably because they are not actually censoring very much. When a Wikipedia page got onto the list, the performance went to hell.
        2. Yes. I believe this has happened.
        3. Hard to say. Presumably the cost is that of the filtering hardware, plus the cost of the people who maintain the list. All of it seems to be paid for by the ISPs themselves.
        4. It can't be. There can't be many kiddie porn websites, given that they are illegal everywhere, so if there's any real trade in that sort of stuff it will be u

        • by uberjeep (1667223)
          And if the increased operating cost is borne by the ISPs, they'll pass it on to their customer base.
    • So in the UK the ISPs are the only entities that are acknowledged to possess will, though even they are offered a Hobson's choice. Of course if you think record covers are a means of distributing porno, that "largely popular" is anything more than bullshit, and that eliminating the never-effective "accidental" defense is a measure of effectiveness, then I guess the grand British tradition justifies itself.
      • by igb (28052)

        if you think record covers are a means of distributing porno

        Several countries had a problem with the Blind Faith album, and I think unsurprisingly so: it's such a fine line between clever and stupid, and in that case I think paying 11 year old girls forty quid to pose naked in order to get a buzz about an album half of which consists of a shapeless jam is pretty bad. The Scorpions album is often credited as being the inspiration for Smell The Glove. I don't think either The Scorpions or Eric Clapton wo

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      Is the system perfect? No. Because it was never intended to be. A proxy or an https tunnel or any number of other things will subvert it. The effect is more straight-forward: it removes the ``oh, I stumbled over it accidentally'' defence, and prevents pressure to impose filtering for anything other than illegality.

      Does anyone else besides me think that the laws are pretty f***ed up when you need a "I stumbled on it accidently" defense?

  • I know it has been said before many, many times but if you want to protect children from stuff they shouldn't see on the internet then it is the parents' duty to monitor what they see and do on it. Simple as that. State butt out of families. Keep it free and nasty and abolish Windows!
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      The counter argument is that it is quite a good idea to protect children by not letting paedophiles freely exchange information and pics/videos. It's not the children potentially visiting kiddie porn sites that are the problem.
  • All they have to do is arrest the volunteers for being paedophiles!
    • by Animats (122034)

      All they have to do is arrest the volunteers for being paedophiles!

      I wonder if we may see the end of the religious-driven Great Porn Panic now that the Catholic Church is being hit hard in that area. Catholics are the biggest religious group in Australia, with about 25% market share. The Catholic Church has big problems. Search Google for Catholic priest porn [google.com]. (I didn't realize, until I did that search, how many cases there were.) Priests have been caught by FBI sting operations. [kmov.com] Dozens of priests in d

      • by deniable (76198)
        The Catholics aren't the problem. It's the AoG / Hillsong / Family First people. If these guys can rig Australian Idol, they can probably rally some political support. Let's hope Steve Fielding can damage the brand a bit more.
  • australia.. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I never really took australia for a backwoods censorship type country before... I mean wasn't the country founded by inmates?

  • I'm thinking about starting my own ISP. Please reply with a list of all of the URLs that contain information you don't want me to be able to see.

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