Aussie Internet Filtering Plan to Include P2P Traffic

Government to “examine how technology can assist in filtering internationally-hosted content.”

We’ve covered the situation in Australia quite extensively here at Zeropaid. It all started as a voluntary effort to “protect children,” but quickly spiraled into an all out attempt by the Australian govt to make it mandatory for ISPs to filter the Internet of all “inappropriate content” and “offensive and illegal material.” It quickly deteriorated from an attempt to somehow safeguard children from things like child pornography to things like legal pornography and gambling and has made Australian citizens rightly upset.

Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy, the main proponent of the plan, has now launched a blog on the Australian Govt’s Dept of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website in order to promote the heavily criticized plan that threatens to reduce Internet connection speeds by 87% and institute a system of censorship with no oversight.

In a recent posting, Conroy is now touting a $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan intended to be a “comprehensive set of measures to combat online threats and help parents and educators protect children from inappropriate material.” In order to protect these innocent and helpless children the govt intends to fund ISP-level filtering, a plan which involves more technical interference in the Internet infrastructure than what is attempted even in Iran.

He writes:

I can assure everyone who is participating in this debate that the Government is taking an evidence-based approach to implementing its cyber-safety policy. I’m aware of technical concerns some have raised with filtering technology. The Government further understands that the potential extent of ISP filtering is inherently related to the technical capabilities of filtering solutions. International experience suggests that index-based filtering of a central blacklist is technically feasible. Broader, dynamic analysis filtering of internet content, on the other hand, has raised some issues in the past. The Government is currently testing the effectiveness of these technical solutions in the current live trial. The results of this trial will inform the Government’s approach to this issue.

With recent comments made by Conroy that these scheduled “live” trials will be “a closed network test and will not involve actual customers,” the results will be worthless since they won’t indicate a real-world impact.

Conroy also oddly doesn’t see the plan for what it is – an attack on freed speech.

“We are happy to have an open debate about these technical issues,” he continues. “However, the Government does not view this debate as an argument about freedom of speech.”

Oh really? By limiting what can and cannot be said it certainly is an argument about free speech.

Respondents to his post have been quick to point out that despite Conroy’s insistence to the contrary the plan is eerily similar to that instituted in the “Great Firewall of China,” a point of which he disagrees.

“Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there was never any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content,” Conroy writes. “In this context, claims that the Government’s policy is analogous to the approach taken by countries such as Iran, China and Saudi Arabia are not justified.”

Well, as soon as a govt gets into the content filtering business isn’t the charge justified? Once the govt begins determining what is and isn’t appropriate for children, or adults for that matter, it’s a slippery slope that is irreversible.

Also, why are other types of content other than “political” any less worthy of protection? To say that non-political speech can be filtered is just asinine. This would make talk of religion, poetry, astronomy, economics, engineering, etc. fair game! To make these open to censorship is EXACTLY LIKE Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia!

Conroy furthers:

Australian society has always accepted that there is some material which is not acceptable, particularly for children. That is why we have the National Classification Scheme for classifying films, computer games, publications and online content. Australian ISPs are already subject to regulation that prohibits the hosting of certain material based upon the Scheme. For many years, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has had the power to issue a ‘take-down’ notice requiring that prohibited content hosted in Australia be removed, blocked from public access or hosted from behind a restricted access system, depending on the content involved. All the Government is now seeking to do is to examine how technology can assist in filtering internationally-hosted content.

Is that really the best way to protect children? By even going so far as to try and filter the rest of the world?

Other respondents point out that “Internet filtering won’t stop P2P and BitTorrent traffic—so why bother?”

Conroy responds:

The Government understands that ISP-level filtering is not a ‘silver bullet’. We have always viewed ISP-level filtering as one part of a broader government initiative for protecting our children online.

Technology is improving all the time. Technology that filters P2P and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.

Yet, again we see Conroy mislead the public. With the “live pilot trial” scheduled to be a meaningless closed network test he will have garnered no viable data to prove the effectiveness of the plan one way or the other.

Moreover, I think the respondent with the alias “IGB” says it best.

“Whatever happen to the freedom of choice?” he writes. “We are mature adults and parents, that have the right to chose what we look at, download, and protect our children from. Who are you to put ‘Business’ before the Public….?”

Not listening to the experts. Not listening to ISPs. Not listening to Australian citizens, and now adding P2P filtering? Whose interests is Conroy really trying to protect? It seems to be the music and film industry’s rather than the publics’.


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Jared Moya

I've been interested in P2P since the early, high-flying days of Napster and KaZaA. I believe that analog copyright laws are ill-suited to the digital age, and that art and culture shouldn't be subject to the whims of international entertainment industry conglomerates.


Now wouldnt the internet be covered under free speech?


No such thing as Free Speech in Australia. Well not in law anyway. Hence why we now have a Dictator in Government.


So what uneffective technology do they plan to implement this time that'll be broken by a 16-year old with an extra half an hour of free time on their hands this time?


Deleted things have only gotten worse there since they banned and confiscated every ones firearms that is what keeps people free the right to bear arms and the government being kept in check because of it.


It's all about the "We must do it for the children" thing they use to control the internet in Australia and the fact guns can be banned to also protect the children but makes Australia a dictator Nanny state like in orwells version of the future. Its nuts to generalize p2p as child porn or peer 2 porn because it's an open communications medium not a child molest ring or a terrorist ring. but they can use excuses like we will always have child pornography unless we ban p2p and control and restrict all open networks then the principals of the worldwide net is finished. The problem is censorship won't sto child abuse because if they can't use the net then they will make their own filth content so banning p2p won't put a dent in pedophilia but will wreck our civil liberties for the road to hell is paved with good intentions


The illuminati leaves no option for Super intelligent people like me but to join them since the sheeple are not gona fight for their rights and in a democracy if people become sheeple then its better to crush them and live our life.


Due to the sustained high level of criticism and protest it appears Conroy is backing down from the plan - a little. He's now suggesting that only a category of material called "Refused Classification" be placed on the mandatory filter list - and no longer otherwise legal X-18, R-18 and even MA-15+ material - "RC" is stuff the Censorship Board refuses to classify because it falls outside of all possible classification categories: child porn for example, but worryingly also "political" content such as literature that tells you how to kill yourself, or stuff dealing with fetishes which is considered RC in Australia. (Ironically RC is legal to own if it is not otherwise made illegal, but not to distribute or broadcast in any way). How on Earth Conroy plans to filter P2P traffic is beyond everyone. There is talk of them doing this but they have absolutely no ideas how to. The whole problem with this scheme is that the longer it is proposed, the messier it becomes. Due to the continued sustained criticism by just about everyone - even by child advocacy groups! - of the scheme, Conroy & Co. are left with making up policy on the run. He continues to avoid addressing the fact that anyone who wants to can simply bypass the filter using a proxy server or better yet, a free VPN service, and the question of how, in that case, this whole scheme is not just a massive waste of taxpayers' money. The fact is, the guy is a member of Opus Dei, a very conservative Catholic, and heavily influenced by Church policy and he will have his mandatory filter no matter if the whole of Australia be opposed to it or how much of a technical nightmare it may be. I think the ultimate root of the problem here is that we don't have good separation of Church & State in Australia, allowing political ministers personal religious convictions to dominate policy, rather than the wishes of the electorate.