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iiNet Pulls Out of Australian Censorship Trial 77

taucross writes "ISP iiNet today confirmed its exit from the Australian government's Internet filtering trials. iiNet had originally taken part in the plan in order to prove the filter was flawed. Citing a number of concerns, their withdrawal leaves only five Australian ISPs continuing to test the filter."
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iiNet Pulls Out of Australian Censorship Trial

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  • by deek ( 22697 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @02:50AM (#27295163) Homepage Journal

    iiNet had registered interest in participating in the trial, but they were not selected for first round of testing. Now it appears as if they've pulled out of the whole process completely.

    It seems the major reason for the backout is because wikileaks published the ACMA blacklist. There were many URLs on the list which were not associated with illegal sites, but instead, politically undesirable sites.

    Hooray for wikileaks! They've proven how easy it is to abuse compulsory censorship, even in a democracy of elected officials.

    • by Zarhan ( 415465 )

      Would it be possible that iiNet deliberately leaked that list to Wikileaks....?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by grim-one ( 1312413 )
        If deek is correct and they were never actively participating (this was also my understanding), it's likely they never received a copy of the blacklist.
      • by xenobyte ( 446878 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @03:05AM (#27295215)

        Good for them if they did.

        This whole censorship scheme is deeply flawed and morally bankrupt. Any society that feel the need to implement censorship in order to 'function' is already badly broken and censorship will only prolong the suffering and delay the inevitable, making it unavoidable. If there really is a need to prevent access to something, use sound advice and education so the need to access 'the forbidden' goes away. It is this need to will be the downfall of any society that use censorship because the human spirit can never be kept in a cage, no matter how many bars and locks you add to it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Any society that feel the need to implement censorship in order to 'function' is already badly broken and censorship will only prolong the suffering and delay the inevitable, making it unavoidable.

          Whilst I completely agree with you, you've just given me an insight into what it must be like to be an Iranian or a citizen of Oklahoma.

          I doubt that most Australians agree with this legislation. Actually, I think that most haven't thought about it enough to see the seriousness of it. But that's really the point. The filter in its current form has not been put to the electorate for a vote.

          • Things here in Australia are rarely put to the people, as the pollies don't want the unwashed masses disturbing their plans.

            Instead there is the concept of a 'mandate', ie. a party is voted in, and can do whatever the hell it wants, until they get voted out.

            Politics here is far less robust than in the USA. We have the massive paradox of compulsory voting, and astounding voter apathy.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 23, 2009 @04:42AM (#27295541)
        The leaked list was obtained by reverse engineering filtering software, which contained the ACMA list. When Conroy lied, and said that list wasn't ACMA's, wikileaks followed up by publishing instructions on how people could extract the list themselves, so people could prove to themselves that Conroy was lying.
    • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

      Can you give some examples of "politically undesirable sites"? What sort of thing are we talking about here?
  • Article correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 23, 2009 @03:13AM (#27295237)

    "their withdrawal leaves only five Australian ISPs continuing to test the filter."

    Correction; There were, and remain, six participating ISP's in the trial; Primus Telecommunications, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1

    Iinet have only withdrawn their application to participate in the trial.

    To put it in perspective, Optus, the second largest ISP still has an (as yet unaccepted) application to participate. iiNet is the third largest ISP. Primus is possibly in the top 20 ISP's in the country, and the other 5 might sneak into the top 200. There are no other notable publicly known applications from other ISP's

    • So this has been a very very limited trial. I wonder what they were actually testing then: the technical part of filtering should be trivial, or the public reaction?

      By the way what is there in it for the ISPs to sign up for the trial? Publicity?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 23, 2009 @03:20AM (#27295267)

    Before I start I want to make it absolutely clear that I am completely opposed to filtering, and I am an Australian.

    What I want to point out is that there is a pretty solid chance that the list on wikileaks isn't the ACMA list. If this was leaked from a vendor (eg. Websense) then they may have incorporated the ACMA blacklist into their own blacklist and then a staff member leaked _that_ list.

    This would still mean that the entire ACMA list is in the leaked list, but it means that a lot of the sites that are questionable (not illegal but listed) may not be anywhere to be seen on the ACMA list and were added by the third party (the sites everyone is complaining about).

    This also means that Conroy stating that "that isn't the ACMA list" is actually true, the fact that it contains the ACMA list is a point that was skimmed over.

    Now that wikileaks have some new 'leaked lists' that apparently show a great drop in the number of banned URL's and suggesting a government 'clean up' could easily be attributed to the fact that their new leaked lists are the genuine article, and not a list leaked from a third party with additional URL's.

    Just want to put it out there. If the government are trying to ban non-illegal content they should be strung up.. but I just don't want to jump to the conclusion that everyone seems to be jumping to.

    • by Yaur ( 1069446 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @03:56AM (#27295393)
      On the wikileaks talk page there is a discussion of exactly how to pull the list, using some censorship client (sorry wikileaks is down or I would provide more details). The takeaway I got was that this is/was the list being used to censor. What is more troubling that this is the official list or that the vendors are using some crap they made up to do the censoring?
    • Any /.er on one of the ISPs involved in the filtering?

      If so, a simple shell script could show whether sites are blocked. I suspect a DNS lookup for those domains will either not resolve or resolve to a common "domain parking" address or so provided by the ISP in question. Then way we can see soon enough which sites of the list are accessible from the filtered ISPs and which not. The inaccessible ones that are accessible from other ISPs are on the list for sure. There may be more URLs on the ACMA list of co

      • Any /.er on one of the ISPs involved in the filtering?

        I doubt it. Anyone who has enough of a clue to be on /. would run screaming from the plans offered by the ISPs included in this trial. I don't actually know of anyone, let alone a /. member who is using these ISPs. The trial is a farce...

    • by Grail ( 18233 )

      The list was pulled from filtering software, set to "block illegal material only".

      I would be far more concerned if the list is a superset of the ACMA list than if Stephen Conroy was flat out lying, since that would mean that a product vendor is taking the opportunity to tell me what I'm not allowed to read, on top of the Government giving themselves that right.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Monday March 23, 2009 @03:23AM (#27295283) Homepage Journal

    Thankfully I'm entirely too lazy to go trolling through my comments on Slashdot from months ago where I said that the Government was primarily interested in blocking "hard core" porn sites.. otherwise I think some "nya, nya, told ya so" would be in order for the slashtards who disagreed with me. The kind of porn people regularly access on the Internet has been "illegal" in every state of Australia (but not the territories) for a long time now. Why do people find it so surprising that those-who-like-to-censor would apply the same standard to Internet porn that they do to video tape porn? It just makes sense that they would. People failed to object to film censorship. They failed to object to video censorship. They failed to object to videogame censorship. Now, finally, when they do try to object, the established censorship mechanism of government is too strong.

    • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @03:49AM (#27295369)
      no, lots of people objected they just weren't listened to, due mostly to all those mediums being controlled by big media companies who only cared about their vested interests. another more recent reason is verly likely to the attitude "it doesn't matter i have the internet". now that that last resort is under fire and it's become something they can personally contribute to, people are getting involved.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It isn't illegal to own the porn or view it in the Australian states. It is just illegal or businesses to sell it in most Australian states. One can still legally buy it from the territories or overseas.

    • The kind of porn people regularly access on the Internet has been "illegal" in every state of Australia (but not the territories) for a long time now. Why do people find it so surprising that those-who-like-to-censor would apply the same standard to Internet porn that they do to video tape porn?

      I agree with your point, but this is a Federal matter, not a State one. The states have happily censored everything for a long time now, but the Feds have stayed right out of it, even when they have the power to stop the Territories selling porn.

      Still, your point is a good one. I know far too many people who see the parallel with TV and video and wonder what the problem is with a bit of censorship.

      I do find it odd that SBS---which goes to great lengths to explore the pale blue area between porn and erotica

  • I can't understand why any ISP at all (even a tiny one) is signing up for these trials. I mean, it's like the government saying that they're going to inject the ISP and their customers with herpes as a trial run for injecting the whole of Australia with herpes. Herpes brings no value to your business and causes a lot of headaches for you and your clients.

    The moral of this story is: Practice safe browsing, and don't let the government stab you with herpes infected needles. If a needlestick happens accidently

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They get some free/subsidised equipment out of it. The stupid ISPs think the equipment is worth more than the loss of customer goodwill. Some of the smaller ISPs, might specialise in providing censored feeds on the mistaken assumption that it is "family friendly", in which case the government is just buying the ISP filtering gear it would have bought anyway.
  • by Dracophile ( 140936 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @05:26AM (#27295701)
    ...because we all know that the filter can be circumvented. I'm sure the government also knows this. The problem for us will be political. If the government can have legislation rammed through the parliament, then it doesn't matter even if every ISP drops out of the filter test. They can just ram it through (in principle at least) anyway and make it unlawful to attempt to circumvent it. If they could do it, they would, and no amount of non-testing or technical faults would stop them.

    However, given that a) they do not have the numbers in the senate on their own to ram it through, b) there is no way the Greens will support it from the cross-benches, and c) the Lib-Nat coalition seems bent on opposing the crap out of everything the government does out of, well, who knows why those clowns do anything at the moment, I cannot see the return they're getting on the investment of political capital in this scheme. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon seems to have lost interest in the filter lately, so that leaves only Senator Steve Fielding of Family First. This filter would naturally appeal to Fielding, but what on earth does the ALP think they can gain by courting him this way? He's shown that he isn't that interested in dealing with the ALP but is instead prepared to scuttle legislation unless he gets his way.

    So what's this really all about? Is it really just some bloody-minded insistence upon seeing the program through to its bitter end regardless of its seemingly inevitable failure on both technical and political fronts? Surely, they'd look less daft just admitting it's a failure now than seeing it through to an end of certain failure? I don't see why they're pressing on with it.
    • by frglrock ( 992261 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @07:33AM (#27296241)

      Nick Xenophon has gone a little bit past having "lost interest" previously stating his opposition to the filter. He has also stated he isn't convinced the trial should go ahead in its current form: []

      "But I think the means of doing it really are very problematic and when ISP after ISP [are] saying that this won't work, it will slow down the internet for everyone, and it won't deal with the issue of the peer to peer networks that paedophiles use, then I think we really need to rethink this."

      More importantly though, you seem to be under the impression that Conroy doesn't understand the political problem here. The last sentence from the above article states it quite nicely:

      "A spokesman for Senator Conroy says the Minister is still looking into whether the filter would require legislation, or could be implemented through another means."

      He's very aware that this isn't going to get through the legislative process. There are obviously other agendas involved that prevent common sense prevailing.

    • ... so that leaves only Senator Steve Fielding of Family First. This filter would naturally appeal to Fielding, ...

      Perhaps the presence of anti-abortion sites on the list will change his mind.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @07:23AM (#27296191)
    The one ISP who joined the trial to prove that the filtering scheme is broken has pulled out. Doesn't this mean that a major influence in the scheme's failure has just been dismissed?

    I'm sure the Aus government are sobbing their little black hearts out over the loss.
  • Won't somebody PLEEEEEEEEASE think of the children!!!
    • by BarryHaworth ( 536145 ) on Monday March 23, 2009 @08:30AM (#27296557) Homepage
      The sad (and worrying) thing is how these filters fail to work the way they are advertised. An example. I work in an Australian Government office, which has filtering set up on web access and emails. Various sorts of material - illegal, offensive etc. - is proscribed, and automatic filters are in place to prevent it entering the system. The rule of thumb we are told is, if you think your Grandmother would pass it, it passes. If you think she would be offended, don't download/read/send/whatever.

      My first brush with this came when I tried to email myself a copy of a text analysis program I had written in a previous job (I had a copy at home). It got stopped, due to "potentially offensive content". After several rounds of emails back & forth, including an approval from my boss, I finally managed to get it released (the means of doing so was by no means easy or transparent). What was the sticking point? Well, the program included some samples of text I had tested it on. What was the oh-so-potentially-offensive text? One of the plays of William Shakespeare...

      I confirmed this by sending a copy of the full play (Shakespeare's "All's well that Ends Well") - sorry, it got stopped as "potentially offensive". I leave it as an exercise to the reader to work out just why. (OK, I'll tell if anybody asks).

      Since then I have experimented from time to time. The latest "offensive" text I found was the text of the novel "Anne of Green Gables" (yes, the classic story for girls). At least, I think it was classified as offensive, and I think I know why - but all I know for certain is that I sent three different copies of the text, and all three have disappeared without trace, without even a notice of "potentially offensive content". Some things, it seems, are too potentially offensive for government employees even to know about.

      I don't think my Grandmother would approve.

  • "Stephen Conroy yesterday attempted to hose down concerns ..."

APL hackers do it in the quad.