Live Blog: Internet censorship forum

Australia’s controversial plans to “filter” (i.e. censor) the Internet are being discussed in a major forum tomorrow — and I’ll be blogging it live on this very page. Bookmark it for reference!

The forum is at the UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre from 10am Sydney time on Thursday 27 November, through to 2.30pm, and there’s a fantastic array of speakers.

There’s three sessions: technical and social/legal to set the bounds of what’s actually possible, and then one focussing on how we actually protect the interests of children given this background — both preventing children seeing “inappropriate material” and stamping out child pornography.

The CoveritLive live blog tool should appear immediately below this paragraph — at least if you’re looking at this in a compatible web browser.

I’ll be taking comments and questions during the forum, but do feel free to add them here now, or after the sessions are over.

5 Replies to “Live Blog: Internet censorship forum”

  1. Pingback: Hoyden About Town
  2. It was a good forum. The goal at this point was a discussion rather than a specific outcome, although there was talk at the end about where to go from here – send email to Alana or David if you want to help with their research. The consensus was that mandatory filtering was a bad idea, and the current system whereby end users are supplied with filtering software for their computers (if they want it) was the best solution.

    I thought the best bits were Alana’s presentations. She introduced details that surprised me. I’ll re-hash them here for others who might be interested:

    – According to her (anonymous) contacts in ISPs in the UK, Canada and other places, there IS currently implemented filtering technically similar to what Conroy has proposed. It only filters specific URLs, and has quite well-defined criteria for what goes on the black-list (unlike the current Aus proposal). This filter is not designed to be foolproof, but it does seem to achieve most of what those govt’s wanted. Both the UK and Canada have stronger legal protections for free speech, which means mission creep should be limited there. Mission creep has already been seen there though.

    (I imagine that the implementation of this limited type of firewall might end up looking something like Google’s anti-phishing system but with a govt-chosen blacklist, and implemented using DPI in the ISP rather than in a browser. It wouldn’t filter all ‘unwanted’ content, but it could catch most _inadvertent_ accesses over http. This system uses hashes of URLs, so the blacklist itself need not be released to the ISPs doing the filtering, just the hashes of those URLs.)

    – The proposal in Aus looks quite different to what happens in China. That system is massively more expensive than the systems in the UK or Canada, and blocks significantly more stuff.

    (I should be clear, that neither I nor Alana support the filtering proposal, but accurate facts are good.)

    Alana’s second talk was also very interesting. She showed some research that suggested that child porn took much longer to come down after a take-down notice than phishing or malware sites. The mechanisms for policing child porn were also different. Basically, security researchers/professionals (employed by banks and others) do much of the policing for phishing and malware. But those people will not touch child porn because of the penalties for possession: they cannot gather, store or handle any evidence.

    – The fight against child porn might be significantly assisted by a (limited) possession exemption for security researchers.

    I personally think this is a much better way to fight child abuse than an internet filter. Add this to the availability of end-user filtering software for parents.

    Holly Doel-Mackaway from ‘Save the Children Australia’ also gave a nice talk. I believe Holly was invited because it was thought that she’d provide some ‘balance’ to the debate and present the case for the filter. People were surprised when she came out against the filter. It was nice, but also meant the discussion wasn’t very balanced. 🙂

    Be well,


  3. @Will: Thanks for the detailed comment, an excellent summary of the day. I’ll add my own thoughts in due course — when I have the energy to write at length.

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