Optus, iiNet put filters to the test

Telcos infiltrate to get the facts.

Telcos critical of the government's clean-feed Internet scheme will respond to a call to trial the technology over the holiday season.

The initiative, funded as part of the government's $125.8 million cyber safety plan, will impose mandatory ISP-level Internet content filtering nation-wide, and will block Web pages detailed in two blacklists operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

iiNet chief regulatory officer Stephen Dalby said it will take part in the trial, despite its objections to the plan.

"We are very keen to participate in it, but we do not support the notion of ISP-level filtering," Dalby said.

"The best way to get the facts is to work on the inside.

"If the technology delivers unacceptable false positives or slows down speeds, we will gladly publish the details."

Dalby said participation in the trial is important despite the fact he considers it a "dumb idea". He said child porn will not be cut back with content filtering technology.

Optus spokesman Maha Krishnapillai said it will participate in the pilot to establish the effectiveness of the filters.

"We want customers to be very comfortable with using the Internet and we do not want to have clumsy technology in place," Krishnapillai said.

"Optus is committed to work with government. There are real challenges about how it will be done."

The scheme has angered communications technologists and privacy activists who have raised concerns over the effectiveness and accuracy of the technology and the power it hands to government to potentially censor Web sites containing information on euthanasia or political protest.

Such material was incorrectly blocked by content filters inside the Parliament House network, which outraged senators who could not research portfolios relating to sex and guns.

Sources privy to the pilot's EOI documents say the trial will be restricted to 12Mbps — a small fraction of ISP network connections — which they say will undermine the final test results.

Critics made similar comments after the filtering technology was tested last July against a simulated load of 30 users. They said even the most accurate filter, which returned a 94 percent accuracy rating, would incorrectly block up to 10,000 Web pages out of 1 million.

The trial is expected to use a blacklist of 10,000 banned Web pages, using the rumoured 1300-page blacklist held by the ACMA mixed with dummy data.

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