Internode: ISP-level filter goals still not clear

ISP says the objectives of the government's plan have still not been clarified despite moves to proceed with implementation

The objectives of the Federal Government's mandatory ISP-level filter plan announced today are still unclear, according to one of the companies likely to be directly affected.

Senator Stephen Conroy today said that he would push ahead the content filter to block URLs that received a Refused Content classification by the ACMA in the face of considerable public backlash.

However, Internode network engineer, Mark Newton, told Computerworld the question of whether the plan is a good idea in the first place, has still not been answered.

“They need to tell the public what they actually want to achieve, and they’ve never done that," he said. "We’ve been talking about this for two years now, and they’ve never once said what their objective is.

“It’s clearly not to keep stuff away from kids, because the data in this report shows that the products they have tested are completely ineffective at doing that.

“It’s clearly not to prevent adults from publishing information that’s inappropriate for kids, because one of the outcome’s of the report is that anyone who is motivated to circumvent these products can."

Newton's comments echo those of other industry figures including telco analyst Paul Budde, and Vocus CEO and one of the found members of AusNOG James Spenceley who described the decision as a bad day for the industry.

The Internode network engineer also questioned the results of Enex Testlab's report into a trial of content filtering run by several ISPs.

“Enex haven’t provided any information about sample sizes when they’ve been giving statistical data. They’ll give a percentage figure without saying the size of whatever quantity they were talking about," Newton said.

“Some of the performance numbers that they’ve given indicate that network performance is better with the censor were in place than without it, which doesn’t make any sense at all.

“They haven’t provided enough information to be able to tell whether the numbers they’re reporting are correct."

The Enex report found that a technically competent user could circumvent filtering technology based on ACMA’s blacklist.

According to the report, initially all filters had issues with loading the ACMA blacklist indicating a need for routine checking to ensure the blacklist is filtered correctly with each update.

On the up side, testing also revealed that ISPs filtering only the ACMA blacklist during the trial had no noticeable performance degradation that could be attributed to the filter itself.

(The full Enex Testlab report can be downloaded from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website.)

“As a result of how it was announced today, we probably know less about how it’s going to work than we did this morning, because Conroy says that there will be an independent body to evaluate whether content is refused classification or not," Newton added. "At the moment we’ve got ACMA and the classification board doing that, so it looks like we’re going to have a third body in the government doing censorship with a separate blacklist and we don’t know anything about them yet.

“Where’s the accountability for them? So we’ll have to see the draft legislation to know where that’s at."

Additional reporting by Trevor Clarke

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