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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Australia: mandatory filtering of illegal content, voluntary filtering of 'gross' content

Its important to read carefully what Australia proposes, which is effectively the European anti-kiddie/suicide/extreme pROn filters. As ArsTechnica reports:
'Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced today that the government has wrapped up an extensive trial of the filtering system and that it plans to proceed with legislation making the filters mandatory. Under the government's scheme, all content that is "Refused Classification" by the country's official ratings board won't just be illegal to sell in Australia, it will also be blocked on the Web. This provision will be required, and it must be implemented by all Aussie ISPs.

ISPs will also be encouraged to set up a second filter that blocks legal-but-objectionable content such as pornography, terrorism sites, and "gross" content. This filter will be optional, and can be turned on and off by Internet subscribers. The government will provide funds for ISPs to set up the additional filtering.'
BUT it will be as effective as the IWF CAIC list in the UK:
'...locking the official government censorship list (the ACMA blacklist) of around 1,000 websites was easily done; all nine ISPs participating in the recent trial achieved 100 percent accuracy with no real performance degradation and without false positives. The results make sense, since the list is both small and specific (it uses full URLs to content rather than blocking a complete IP address or domain name).
But when many of the ISPs rolled out the second, optional filtering scheme designed to make the 'Net "family friendly," results weren't so hot. According to Enex, the ISPs managed to block "between 78.80 percent and 84.65 percent of inappropriate material," and at a greater cost to performance. Overblocking also became an issue, with each ISP blocking two or three percent of "innocuous content."
Telstra, one of the largest ISPs in Australia, declined to participate in the official test, but ran its own internal test network to gauge the effects of such widespread ISP-level filtering. According to the report, "Telstra found its filtering solution was not effective in the case of non-Web based protocols such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer or chat rooms. Enex confirms that this is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot. Telstra reported that heavy traffic sites could overload its trial filtering solution if included in the filtering blacklist. This is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot."
In addition, Enex admits that "circumvention" of the filter shouldn't be that difficult for technically inclined users. Bypassing the mandatory ACMA blacklist of "illegal" content actually turned out to be easiest of all; of the four ISPs that tested only the ACMA list, none was able to stop more than 16.2 percent of attempts to bypass the filter. Yes, that's right, 84 percent of attempts to bypass the scheme were successful (and the ACMA list only includes websites, not P2P or FTP or IM).

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