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Censorship Australia Your Rights Online

Australia's 2 Largest ISP's Start Censorsing the Web 133

unreadepitaph writes "Looks like after Stephen Conroy's web filter went down in flames he went quietly behind the backs of Australians and struck a deal with Telstra and Optus to start filtering an undisclosed blacklist of sites from organization within and external to Australia. From the article: 'Electronic Frontiers Association board member Colin Jacobs also expressed concern at the scheme, saying the Government and internet providers needed to be more upfront about websites being blocked and offer an appeals process for website owners who felt URLs had been blocked unfairly. "There is a question about where the links are coming from and I'd like to know the answer to that," Mr Jacobs said."
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Australia's 2 Largest ISP's Start Censorsing the Web

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  • ...because the current government is utterly doomed at the next election, and all their half-baked ideas will be junked, like they should be. Given the current - and trending downwards for over 12 months now - opinion polls, they'll be reduced to a mere rump of their former selves. The Australian Labor Party federally has the same disease as their state-based comrades in New South Wales and will be severely punished in similarly spectacular fashion at the next election, you mark my words :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then Australia will have the Mad Monk for Prime Minister. You'd better pray the Liberals have another spill before then- all too likely given the fact that there's a few years to go before an election has to be called.

    • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:36AM (#36539258) Homepage

      Doesn't matter if they win or not. The Greens, who will have the balance of power in the Senate, have said they're opposed to any mandatory filtering, so the government would be unable to pass any filtering bills anyway.

      • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:45AM (#36539538)

        I don't see them removing existing bills, though. This is the standard operating procedure: an unpopular law goes in, then after the election everyone mysteriously "forgets" about it.

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          I don't see them removing existing bills, though. This is the standard operating procedure: an unpopular law goes in, then after the election everyone mysteriously "forgets" about it.

          Except the law never went though,

          In the last 4 years, it's failed in the house twice (never even made it to the senate).

          Telstra and Optus are voluntarily filtering, no mandatory filtering here. Telstra and Optus are Australia's oldest and worst ISP's. Because they are so old, they have a large customer base.

          And TFS is wrong, Australia's 2nd largest ISP is iinet (Optus is only larger when you include voice customers) which have been staunch in opposing mandatory filtering and have not implemented a

      • Unless the government says something along the lines of "approve this net filter, which you only care about a little bit, in exchange for getting more of what you want in the carbon tax scheme". That's how politics works. The Greens will make a backroom deal, just like all other political parties and the Carbon Tax is waaaay higher profile and waaaay more important to them than a net filter.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Good thing I live in EU .... and its my right to have uncensored internet......but even if i wasnt .... we have vpns, ssh tunnels, and so on .... there's no real way to block a site ...so what's the point ? Stupid ppl think they can control the internet ? :) Super if you ask me :] That's why i like to encrypt huge files and send them to random servers from time to time :) If someone is listening on the pipe, let him code some double crypted porn ;]

      • Keep in mind this is just a private decision made by two particular ISPs. I don't really have a problem with that - can always change ISPs to one that doesn't do this, if I so desire. Most people simply won't care though.

        • by Hazel Bergeron ( 2015538 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:54AM (#36539586) Journal


          Use of that word is (almost) always inappropriate.

        • What if there is only one ISP in your area?
          • A good point. However the proportion of Australia where there wouldn't be any alternative is considerably less than the proportion of some countries that there wouldn't be an alternative. Due to the fact Telstra is forced to wholesale access to its phonelines, if you have a phone line, you can most likely get a different ISP. In ~most~ cases (though not all).

            Of course chances are that that other ISP will just be resold Telstra Wholesale access, but that would still get you around the filter.

        • by Lakitu ( 136170 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @07:33AM (#36539768)

          why do people say things like this?

          "Voluntary compliance" with a government is never necessarily voluntary, considering the weight behind government suggestions. If the government wants people to do it, it should be a law. It's not a law because it's invasive and improper. This doesn't mean the government can lean on businesses to get what it wants extralegally, because it can be indistinguishable from a threat.

      • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @07:54AM (#36539878)

        Good thing I live in EU .... and its my right to have uncensored internet

        It is? DNS is filtered for child porn websites in at least the UK (for some major ISPs) and Finland (IIRC).

        (In the UK last time I checked, by doing a DNS query on a blocked hostname, my small ISP returned the IP but my parents' large ISP gave a 'no such domain' message.)

        For Finland, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapsiporno.info [wikipedia.org]

        (At work, "Access to lapsiporno.info has been blocked as 'Adult / Sexually explicit'". Shouldn't that be 'Child / Sexually explicit' ... though I'm not going to ask them to change it;-)

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          The link you provide for Finland explicitly states that all four major ISPs in the country to NOT censor anything, and many of those who sensor provide an "alternate sensored DNS" in addition to normal, non-sensored one. Only a few small regionals actually sensor (probably in attempt to market themselves to families with children).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...because the current government is utterly doomed at the next election, and all their half-baked ideas will be junked, like they should be.

      Unfortunately for us, the Liberal opposition to filtering schemes is that Labor don't go far enough. When I last discussed it with my local Lib candidate, he said that Labor were missing the boat by not including gambling, abortion, and other such sites on the black list. And that I should vote for him to make sure we get a proper family-friendly internet in Australia, instead of the dangerous and scary half-assed Labor internet. Both sides are playing the family-fear card here. They've got Today Tonight vi

      • by mfearby ( 1653 )

        The Libs' idea of family friendly internet is a voucher for free "security software" that families may *choose* to install if they wish (and families probably should). Thankfully, the Libs believe in freedom of choice (and strong law and order to hunt down illegal stuff and shut it down where necessary, to balance things out).

      • by makomk ( 752139 )

        They've got Today Tonight viewers convinced that overseas pedos can crawl up your phone line and out of your computer to rape your kids!

        Speaking of which: how many people here have seen the Brass Eye pedophilia special? Sadly it doesn't seem to have caused politicians anywhere to reform their ways.

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )

      Maybe, but the fact is the other party is the libs, a bunch of useless conservatives who don't think we should have fact internet, think we should ignore climate change, reduce taxes for mining companies, keep troops overseas, and a lot more stupid ideas. So Labor may get through again, especially with the leaders the libs have.

      And in fact, apart from this obsession with the internet filter, the current government actually has the best ideas.

      • by mfearby ( 1653 )

        "And in fact, apart from this obsession with the internet filter, the current government actually has the best ideas."

        Labor's last good idea came under Hawke and Keating in the 80s and 90s. This current lot are the crumbling shell of a once proud party, packed full of former political staffers and union apparatchiks. They are devoid of good ideas, and even if I agree with you for the sake of argument that they might actually have some, their implementation of them is a complete joke.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Unlike the current party, a bunchg of useless hippies who want us to have ridiculously fast internet (within the nation only, without bothering to improve our pipelines overseas - whoops!), want to pretend climate change is 100% anthropogenic and tax us to "fix it" but can't tell us where the money will be spent or how it will reduce "carbon emissions", increase taxes for all industries to pass on to consumers, tell us they want the troops home but in fact increase their presence (and get more troops killed

    • by Smirker ( 695167 )
      Agreed. I wouldn't be surprised if most Labor politicians were more 'half-baked' than their ideas. I wouldn't be surprised if, when asked, they couldn't remember where the links are coming from.
    • Please show me a Liberal party which is opposed to internet filtering and who would roll back the changes the Labor party is proposing?

  • by Boltronics ( 180064 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:37AM (#36539266) Homepage

    WikiLeaks will show them the stupidity of this.

    In the meantime, time to fire up Tor and change ISPs.

    • by gtch ( 1977476 )

      time to fire up Tor and change ISPs.

      Isn't that redundant?

      • Churning to a different ISP doesn't occur instantly, unfortunately. Not in Australia at least.

        • by alanthenerd ( 639252 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @07:49AM (#36539852)
          Plus if you don't change they will think that their actions are acceptable. If at the point you contact them to cancel their service you tell them why and enough other people do likewise they may realise that filtering isn't acceptable and stop doing it.
          • You need an organized protest/boycott. A little dribble of people complaining one at a time won't accomplish anything.

            Easily written off as nutjobs (assuming the tier-1 support taking the call even thinks about it that long).

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            Plus if you don't change they will think that their actions are acceptable. If at the point you contact them to cancel their service you tell them why and enough other people do likewise they may realise that filtering isn't acceptable and stop doing it.

            Churning DSL takes all of 4 hours of service disruption (changing DSLAM operators may take up to 10 days though) which only indicates the whingers need to harden the fuck up the bigger issue is the fact most ISP's try to force you into 24 month contracts (Internode does not, signed, happy Internode customer).

            This would definitely constitute a change of contract, under Australian law allowing customers to terminate the remainder of their contract, so this is actually a good thing for people who dont want

    • by rvw ( 755107 )

      WikiLeaks will show them the stupidity of this.

      In the meantime, time to fire up Tor and change ISPs.

      Better move to another country [nytimes.com]...

    • Will that actually change anything though?

    • Once dox relating to the internals of the filtering machinery are leaked, I would imagine someone will figure out how to cure the cancer by disabling the filtering machinery. Like everything, it's bound to have some weak points making it vulnerable to being compromised one way or another. Unfortunately, disabling the filter might involve disabling the ISP's routing altogether. I guess these ISPs must have already built into their business models that they are painting giant targets for international prot
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Like the GIANT ENEMY CRAB, it's bound to have some weak points making it vulnerable to MASSIVE DAMAGE one way or another.

        Fixed that for you.

  • "Second Largest ISP" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skythe ( 921438 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:46AM (#36539286)
    Just before someone chimes in with this, iiNet is the 2nd largest ISP in terms of Broadband DSL subscribers - Optus would have more combined subscribers with DSL/Cable/other (which is what OP would be referring to).
    • by Smirker ( 695167 )
      Maybe they're referring to building size?
  • by Wild Wizard ( 309461 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:52AM (#36539308) Journal

    Get your real info from here :-

    http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/cleanfeed [whirlpool.net.au]

  • Hmmmmmm.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why does everyone want to save me? I am happy to be damned!

    • by Shark ( 78448 )

      I think the real issue is that incentives to think make you dangerous to established structures.

  • by Boltronics ( 180064 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:09AM (#36539374) Homepage

    Gizmondo recently wrote that Optus and Telstra have just signed [gizmodo.com.au] a lucrative NBN deal. Coincidence?

    Can't force it through parliament, so get the major ISPs to voluntarily do it via an offer they can't refuse?

  • Not cool Optus. Not cool Telstra.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:16AM (#36539412)

    This is only the start of it.

    The NBN will kill the Internets as Australians know it.

    The current plans to force everyone to connect to the NBN weather they want to or not gives the Grubbermint instant control over all net traffic.

    FWIW, the biggest winners from NBN will be Foxtel and other media providers who will simply suck up as much bandwidth as they can get. The current cable TV networks will be shut down and everything will be moved to the NBN. Where do you think the bandwidth is going to go then?

    All telephone lines including POTs will be routed though the NBN.

    The people who actually believed the garbage about 100Mb to their homes were only dreaming. They never had a hope of getting those sort of speeds as it was never in the game-plan.

    The NBN is going to make Telstras Bigpond look like a good deal. All of the current ISP's will simply be relegated to be billing companies. In one swoop the Grubbermint get the control they want and their friends in big corporations that will hire them when they get thrown out of office will have somewhere cushy for htem to sit while they continue to suck on the public tit with their pensions.

    Australia, is having a lemon shoved down it's throat, while the vocal kiddies who dream of 100Mb porn to their screens are being flashed a pair of titties to tease them.

    • by gtch ( 1977476 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:30AM (#36539464)

      Or, to put it more rationally:

      The NBN takes the aging copper network out of private hands where Telstra was using it to restrict competition, and replaces it with an open-access high speed network open to full competition.

      Just to be clear: almost everyone being forced to switch to the NBN is currently using Telstra infrastructure. If you're on iiNet, Internode, TGP, Optus ADSL etc then you're using Telstra copper. The only people being forced to switch to the NBN who aren't using Telstra infrastructure now are the relatively small number of people on Optus Cable Broadband. After the switch to the NBN, you'll still be using iiNet, Internode, etc for your internet access (if you want to) but instead of using Telstra's infrastructure you'll be using NBNCo's infrastructure. And it will be damn fast and more reliable. And it won't be Telstra... which in itself is simply wonderful.

      • by axonis ( 640949 )
        Whats all that copper worth recycled in China ?
      • I know.

        I'm always amazed by such comments.

        The first thing is you have to have a floating paranoia. Then the paranoia become focused on something. The government is good because it's so vast, so integral to the functioning of the community and has such enormous power. Next you see conspiracies in most things (it goes with the paranoia) and finally whatever is being done by the 'Grubbermint' must be suspect thus the paranoid conspiracy theorist makes connections to to things were are not and fails to see the

    • by axonis ( 640949 )
      NBN - "National Blocking Network" ha ha !
    • So how does this compare with any other country's telecom infrastructure? I mean it's not Telstra has been a private company for ever. This also isn't a problem in other countries where the government funds infrastructure.

      Or do you propose we sit and wait patiently for Telstra to upgrade it's network? May happen any century now.

      Also "Grubbermint"? How old are you, 12?

    • Interesting to see that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Liberals don't know how to create a Slashdot account. If you're claiming that a fibre cable won't support 100Mb/s data rates, you must think we're a bunch of drongoes. If NBNCo is going to do any filtering, then you'd have a legitimate gripe with it. But that's not the story here. The story is that Telstra and OPTUS have agreed to implement Conroy's intergoogle filter without his having to have a law passed. If NBNCo did it, we'd be fucked. As it is now, w
  • Why the hell is Conroy still pushing for this? He has a face saving excuse to drop it with the hostile parliament so why doesn't he just drop it?

    It seems like he's taking it _way_ to personally. It's as if he wants to filter the net just to spite everyone.

    What's the bet this is just going to be DNS filtering?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because Conroy is an utter Jack@ss and has no idea about the internet. He won his portfolio at a pub raffle.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:52AM (#36539574)
      He takes a lot of things way too personally. One hysterical press release of his was about a "lesbian cabal" that was trying to stop the NBN. It turned out to be a female staffer that was insisting on sticking to tendering procedure to avoid legal problems and a female former member of his department that just happened to work for a potential contractor that agreed to wait until a contract had been drawn up before signing on. Two parties agreeing not a sign a blank cheque became a "lesbian cabal" in a bizzare press conference.
      Thanks to the necessity of dealing with Telstra the Communications Ministry is almost a punishment post so it has been historically been given to a complete dropkick that a Government hates but has to give something to keep a powerful faction happy. Thus the long string of utter bastards and incompetant wankers in the job. Sadly Conroy is a competant wanker so actually manages to make progress on a filtering policy that his own party hates and only put up to get the reactionary weirdo vote. If he stuffed about on the policy for a decade saying it was a good idea and he'd do something soon (which is what the previous government did) everyone would be happy - even the weirdos that may get a few more paying customers in their fake churches.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re: Why the hell is Conroy still pushing for this?
      The faith based groups had a 20 year plan to infect both sides of politics.
      They have their people in place now. "Family First: A Federal Crusade"
      http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s1358912.htm [abc.net.au]
    • Conroy isn't doing this for "political" reasons (of the sort that most Australian politicians have were they back down when it polls badly). He apparently strongly believes in censorship. Also people who blame Christian and other faith based groups for this are wrong, Conroy is pushing for it for his own reasons and not to buy votes. The rest of his party have pretty much dropped it because they are polling at around sub-30% approval or something silly.

      I am an Evangelical Christian and am against filtering

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Why the hell is Conroy still pushing for this? He has a face saving excuse to drop it with the hostile parliament so why doesn't he just drop it?

      Because like most politicians, he has pandered to some influential individuals to get them to use their influence to get people to vote for him. Thus he owe's them favours. Conroy buddied up with the Church who are in favour of censorship. Most others have aligned themselves with unions, business/industries, educational institutions for the same purposes. Few politicians get in on their own merits unfortunately.

      Not defending Conroy, I think he's an utter twunt but it's not hard to see why he's trying to

  • Censorship (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:33AM (#36539478) Journal

    The act of censorship is always more obscene than the material being censored. My personal opinion.

  • It seems kind of silly to break the internet in this way. It was designed not to be broken. Policies created by individuals who really don't understand the engineering and underlying technology should never be introduced into the system. I do still remember when we were being asked, "Should governments control the internet." It doesn't really matter that everyone who did understand the tech said, "No, that's ridiculous." They did it anyway. People who want to circumvent these filters will still, of course b
    • I sure hope you are right. Unfortunately I think that if enough money gets behind it, they will be very successful. At least for the majority. Then just set up a few laws (which everyone will support by then) to jail the minority of people who visit IP's that are not "allowed". It wont happen overnight, but i dare say it will likely happen. Besides, by denying the large lot access to media, the small lot ends up powerless and feeble.
  • Nobody with a choice and a clue goes with them anyway (and there is quite a lot of choice in the DSL market in Australia). While I'm vehemently opposed to government enforced filtering, I have no problem with individual ISPs doing it - as long as they inform their customers that they're doing so. As long as we don't have the market collapse into a duopoly, and there's no government-mandated filter, those who want a clean feed have that choice.

    • My ISP (Exetel) uses Optus to provide their Internet services. It is unclear to me if this means I will get the block list, but I don't want to take any chances.

      The article mentions two other smaller ISPs voluntarily censoring the web. I'll bet one is Primus. Anyone got any idea what the other one would be?

      • I doubt it. All information I hear indicates that it's a DNS-level block, and every ISP I've ever used runs it's own DNS servers. Haven't used Exetel, but I doubt they're an exception. Telsta/Optus just provide access to the infrastructure for most of those arrangements, no service on top of it.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Recall Canada and its big p2p shaping main isp's?
          http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/03/canadian-isps-furious-about-bell-canadas-traffic-throttling.ars [arstechnica.com]
          "... traffic-shaping hardware even on the lines it resells."
          Does your Australian isp work on a shared best effort network or have some real dedicated optical 'deal'?
          With suburbia filled with RIMs (digital loop carrier ), closed exchanges what one ' cheaper ' isp resells in your area might be sitting on a big clean telco network.
          Do Australians admi
    • I live in the country and have no realistic choice but Bigpond. Not sure what the hell to do about it quite frankly.
  • by splodus ( 655932 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:41AM (#36539520)

    It's a 'voluntary' scheme whereby the biggest six ISPs implement a block list maintained by an organisiation called the 'Internet Watch Foundation'. They claim that only child pornography sites are blocked, but of course there's no way to know what is on the list.

    Recently the first efforts to expand block lists to include 'other illegal' content have been made, and to set up a list for copyright-related restricted sites.

    It seems governments have realised that legislative oversight is a bit of a nuisance, and it's just easier to coerce and/or bribe big business to get what you want.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      there's no way to know what is on the list.

      There is a simple way you can discover many of them. Check to see if a site is accessible over normal HTTP, and if it isn't check with Tor or a foreign ISP. Obviously you need to have an idea of the banned sites before hand by Wikileaks provides handy lists of what other countries have blocked which is a good start.

      I used this technique when I noticed that I couldn't access mobilism.org from my phone. I opted out of net filtering but Vodafone still blocks sites it doesn't like. I keep meaning to tether it t

    • Crowdsourcing is the best way to get these lists, until someone breaks in and takes it.
      Create a list, on a forum, or anywhere else anyone could contribute to it... and start announcing.

      There are ways around it, but the idea in general is pretty offensive... Censor?

    • It seems governments have realised that legislative oversight is a bit of a nuisance, and it's just easier to coerce and/or bribe big business to get what you want.

      I think you have it the wrong way, I would rather say: "It seems big business have realised that legislative oversight is a bit of a nuisance, and it's just easier to coerce and/or bribe governments to get what you want." The push behind those schemes comes from copyright holders and they have the means do what is necessary to get to their goal.

    • It'd be great to be able to drag officers from DBCDE, OPTUS and Telstra through an inquiry and make them all prove that there was no financial inducement to implement this filter.
  • Just to clarify, both ISPs have elected to be involved in the program - yet neither of which will (if I'm understanding this correctly) allow their users to opt out? Surely this is a breach of the contract terms/conditions.
    Introducing mandatory filtering to customers (who, in the case of either ISP, are likely bound by 24 month contracts...) falls slightly outside the bounds of 'we reserve the right to alter terms and conditions at any time.'
    This is far beyond a sick joke.
  • by Toam ( 1134401 )
    Yet another reason not to use either of those ISPs
  • You could always get a low end box and tunnel through it. Since the data is encrypted, the ISP can't know a thing. Denying freedom is so 18th century, in this day and age things like these are nothing but a joke.
  • You mean that large companies can agree together to mutually do bad things to their customers without having any problems with the customers leaving them?

    I'm so amazed, this wasn't written in my "Free Market 101: Why it works".

  • I'm surprised the blacklist of banned sites hasn't been leaked yet... 3... 2... 1...

    With the usual backlash that'll ensue when it's discovered that it contains dentist websites, political opponents websites, typos or simply unfortunate names (expertsexchange.com)

  • "Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power." Benito Mussolini
    • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @10:10AM (#36541018)

      Mussolini did NOT say that. He did love the phrase and tried to claim credit for it, but it wasn't his.
      The phrase was written by philosopher Giovanni Gentile in the Encyclopedia Italiana much earlier.

      • Mussolini DID say that.

        "Did not say that" != "Did not originally say that"

        • You don't credit a quote to somebody when there is documented history that he tried to steal credit for something somebody else said first.

    • Check out the essay "The Doctrine of Fascism", attributed to him. Its roots are really in the philosophy of Hobbes, Rousseau, Hegel, and even Plato. Mussolini's main idea was that fascism is anti-individualist, and that all people should see themselves as incomplete beings whose lives only have meaning and value in service to the all-powerful State. That's not really a corporatist viewpoint. Re: Net censorship, a fascist viewpoint would be that your individual desire to see porn, bomb-making instructions,
  • by Anonymous Coward

    From the wording of the summary, the submitter seems to be worried about the contents of the blacklist. Who cares what's on the list - the fact that some persons feel they are more qualified (than the person paying for access) to judge what is appropriate should have all of Australia in an uproar. Child pornography or not, I don't want anybody determining what is "appropriate".

  • When you google "Australian Evangelical Churches". Maybe that is why they claim social media tools edged out pornography as the nations No.1 internet activity by 09. Or better yet, how they know.

    http://www.eyefortravel.com/news/online-travel/social-channels-top-porn-sites-australia [eyefortravel.com]

  • does anyone else think it's about time to build a new internet that doesnt allow this kind of bullshit?

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill