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Internet filtering – time to let it go?

Posted on August 10, 2010

It's been over 3 years since the Department of Internal Affairs started their internet censorship trials in New Zealand. Since then (data from June 29th 2010):

  • They completed trials of the system nearly two years ago.
  • They have signed up just two small ISPs, Watchdog and Maxnet, although we believe that Maxnet are not using it yet.
  • The list of banned webpages has only 153 entries on it (well down from the 7000 they were claiming earlier).

While they've been doing this:

  • Internet NZ has announced their opposition to the filter on technical and practical grounds.
  • Six ISPs have said they definitely won't use the filter, another couple have said they have no plans to implement it, and only three have stated an intention to sign up alongside the current two.
  • Political pressure has forced the Australian Labor government to delay implementing their filter, and the opposing Coalition has said they'll scrap the system if elected.
  • The US government has opposed internet censorship and stated their commitment to developing tools that allow people to circumvent it.

And all the normal reasons against the DIA's proposed censorship scheme remain:

  • The filtering system only works against unencrypted websites and doesn't stop the main ways used to distribute objectionable images - torrenting, email, chat. Only 8.5% of the traffic going through the filter can be checked.
  • It's easy for motivated people to work around the filter.
  • Secret censorship (the list of banned sites is kept secret) is offensive in an open and democratic society.
  • Better filtering solutions that cover a wider range of objectionable material are available for those who want them for their family or business.

Time to stop?

The filtering system doesn't seem to be getting anywhere and isn't going to work if it ever does - surely it's time to just close the project down. The money saved could be much better spent funding the DIA's efforts at infiltrating the groups that trade in objectionable images and shutting them down.

Other Tech Liberty articles about internet filtering.

Posted by Thomas Beagle

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Good points Thomas. It’s good to see that some ISPs are willing to stand up and be counted. I would definitely consider switching ISP on principle if my current ISP implements it.

  2. Totally agree… let’s spend this money on actually getting to the bastards who publish this – after all, they have a list of where they are…

  3. Kia ora

    Would it be worth launching an email campaign to pressure the 5 ISPs going along with the filter? If nobody is willing to use it, and they aren’t willing to make it compulsary, they will have to shut it down, right?

    Kia kaha

  4. Kia ora

    Another thought I had was to nominate Watchdog International for the Roger Award:

    They are behind the compulsory filters in Oz and the UK, as well as the voluntary filter here, so they qualify as a transnational.

    Nga mihi

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