Yesterday Telecom announced that they were joining the DIA’s Internet censorship scheme.
It seems that a lot has happened since we did our last update.
Increase in the number of ISPs
The ISPs using the system are now:
Telecom are obviously next and Vodafone are also apparently well on the way to implementing it. According to the DIA, “Discussions are continuing with Ihug/Vodafone, Woosh, Orcon and 2degrees. Design changes are being investigated to adapt the system for performance on mobile devices.” However public statements from Orcon have said they have no plans to implement the filter.
Even so, this means that most users of the Internet in New Zealand will be using a filtered connection.
Continue reading An Update on Internet Censorship in NZ
Justice Minister Simon Power claims that “new media” on the Internet is a “wild west” that lacks professional or ethical standards. He says:
Issues I’m concerned about include how trials can be prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and re-publication of a libel.
He has asked the Law Commission to review whether current regulations are good enough. This is the same Law Commission that believes that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should have a responsibility to close down websites and shutdown webservers if they are hosting material that might be in breach of a suppression order.
The report will focus on whether the two existing industry bodies, the Broadcasting Standards Authority and Press Council, could be used to regulate “new media”, and whether existing criminal and civil remedies and penalties are appropriate.
These is no mention in the press release of the freedom of expression guaranteed to New Zealanders in the Bill of Rights Act. Nor is there any recognition that many forms of old media such as leaflets, posters and books are also unregulated.
An issues paper is expected by December 2012.
The Government is to tighten up the rules around court-ordered name suppression. The proposed changes are in response to the Law Commission’s report recommending that the rules around suppression need to be clarified and that suppression should be harder to get.
Of concern to Tech Liberty is the following from the Cabinet Paper (PDF):
that it be an offence where an onshore internet service provider or content host becomes aware that they are hosting information that they know is in breach of a suppression order, and they fail to block access or remove it as soon as is reasonable practicable;
While on the face it this does not seem completely unreasonable, the devil is in the details:
- Defining exactly what an Internet Service Provider is turns out to be difficult – and is something that the copyright legislation has also struggled with. Does it include a library or cafe providing free internet? What about a publicly shared connection from someone’s house? How about ISPs that are only providing wholesale bandwidth to other ISPs – which is responsible?
- What duties do ISPs have to police content hosted on their networks by their customers? What if the server is under the control of the customer and the ISP is only providing internet bandwidth and power?
- How will ISPs and content hosts be able to tell whether material is in breach of a suppression order or not? What if the material is only hinting at the identity – does the ISP have to decide whether it’s enough to qualify as a breach and take it down?
- What does “block access or remove it” mean in practice? If ISPs have no admin access to the server hosting the website (as is common when they host other company’s servers), will they be forced to take down entire websites or multi-site web-servers to remove a comment posted on a blog?
ISPs as judge/jury/executioner
We fear that this new law will be a repeat of the debacle around changes to the copyright act – trying to force ISPs into having to make complex legal decisions simply because no one else can do it.
It was wrong to make ISPs judge and punish people for breaches of copyright, it’s equally wrong to make them judge and punish people for breaches of suppression orders.
Future of suppression
Ultimately, the law changes may be largely pointless once the ease of publishing information on the internet anywhere in the world is taken into account.
We look forward to seeing the final text of the bill and expect that we will be making a submission.
See also Rick Shera’s blog post.