Herald on Filtering Scheme

July 18th, 2009 at 8:34 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

With money granted in this year’s Budget, it plans to provide internet providers with Swedish-devised software that matches site requests to a “banned” list and reroutes the requests to a government computer. The internet companies would have to volunteer to take part, unlike in other countries where compulsory filtering of paedophilic sites is proposed. Consumers would, then, be able to avoid filtering if they object on principle to such restrictions.

Technology commentators have raised concerns that this scheme could be the thin end of a wedge by which the state seeks to “filter” other internet material or sites that it, later, deems unwelcome. They are right to be concerned. The public’s freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and opinion of any kind and in any form” is protected by section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act.

Yet even that law recognises there can be reasons to over-ride that freedom. Reducing the demand for, and profits from, material depicting child sexual abuse would surely qualify in the public mind as one of them.

A tightly targeted, voluntary scheme including most internet providers is better than a compulsory regime. Those deciding what cannot be accessed must themselves be regularly reviewed to ensure the scheme stays strictly on track.

As I previously blogged, I would look to have the Auditor-General’s Office regularly vet the scheme against its publicly stated mandate.

On balance, because of the gravity of the offences against children, and the prevalence of the problem, with 26 convictions in this country in the past six months for collecting or distributing child sex abuse images, some restriction seems justifiable. Limited is the lesser of two evils.

The expert advice I have is that the filtering scheme will not stop the hard core offenders. They trade in chat rooms, Usenet groups etc and will use overseas ISPs if necessary to get around any filters.

What the scheme *may* do is help prevent those “curious” about from acting on their curiosity and end up breaking the law. Some of those go on to get “addicted” to  such images and become professional traders etc.

So no one should think the filtering scheme will make a massive difference to the demand for illegal material. However that is not to say it won’t make some difference – and as the Herald says you have to weigh that up.

Tags: , , ,

29 Responses to “Herald on Filtering Scheme”

  1. Redbaiter (11,880 comments) says:

    This is not about child porn.

    This is about control of the internet.

    You cannot trust these bastards. They always operate the same. They bring in some spurious reason such as protection of children, and then gradually, you’ll find their tentacles creeping further and further. They always do it.

    If there was not something more to it, why keep it so secret? This proves from the start they cannot be trusted.

    The grounds for preventing this happening is that you cannot ever, as history has shown so well, trust politicians or governments.

    An overused phrase maybe, but this time, it is the thin end of the wedge. Make no mistake about that.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Seán (373 comments) says:

    “The expert advice I have is that the filtering scheme will not stop the hard core offenders. “ – so? I didn’t hear anyone say the scheme was the be-all and end-all solution to the problem. Maybe it’s just a step in the right direction.

    “One view is that any sort of filtering sets a bad precedent. That if you accept a filter for child porn sites, then someone may propose a filter for copyright infringing sites, or sites that advocate crime, or sites that are defamatory of someone. The concern is that this is the thin end of the wedge.” – what has one thing got to do with the other? Those examples you give are practically mutually exclusive issues. Why make such an assumption with which to argue with, this is shakey debate at best, scaremongering if anything.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Murray (8,803 comments) says:

    Why don’t they just man up and use the Chinese great firewall, thats really what they plan to emulate.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Redbaiter (11,880 comments) says:

    “Maybe it’s just a step in the right direction.”

    You damn gullible offensive fool. You deserve to be a slave in chains.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. cha (4,144 comments) says:

    ‘sigh’

    I agree with Redbaiter, and it may surprise you Red but there’s lots, less government, personal responsibility and get the fuck out of my life etc that I do agree with you on, but to me this is the thin edge of the wedge and because of the lack of honesty about the true intent of the filtering legislation I’m deeply suspicious.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    The Internet is a threat to all Governments in the World.

    It creates a culture of independence, free speech, and the ability to shares views. Views that may not be in accord with the wishes of the Civil Servants. Who also see it as an opportunity to Empire Build.

    That is one reason why Solar Panel power generation is so deeply unpopular in the UK.

    Sir Humphrey hates the thought of any citizen being less dependent on the State. This is actually apolitical. It is a move to protect a

    power base, and end up with the best pay in service, and pension afterwards. They will warp, and use any strategy to twist any administration in their direction.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. Murray (8,803 comments) says:

    Glut, GOOD.

    Governments should be afraid of their people, not the other way round.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Cerium (23,830 comments) says:

    I’m with Redbaiter on this too.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Seán (373 comments) says:

    “This is about control of the internet.”

    You damn paranoid android. You deserve to be a slave in bondage.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. petal (706 comments) says:

    This filter is as much about the control of child porn as microchipping dogs was about children no longer getting bitten by dogs. Anyone who wants to trade any information, child porn or otherwise, will find a way around these filters in a mere fraction of the time it took to set the service up in the first place.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    Hey Murray,

    Thanks a lot, but DILIGAF?

    Er No, and for those of you who don’t know what patronising is.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. Chris G (106 comments) says:

    Sadly I side with redbaiter to a degree. I think this step opens the door to further control of the internet and that is what deeply bothers me about the scheme. Politicians would Love to get their hands on something that can control the peoples thoughts and actions on the internet.

    Since when was this such a glaring problem that it needed this scheme? I can only assume that if I were Stupid enough to search key terms on google to try and find some of the vile stuff, the cops would be on to me pretty quickly.

    Okay, I have just looked at the Wikileaks list of Aussie blacklist. Everyone must go and look at it. Just shows you how fucking stupid our blacklist will inevitably be.

    Notable inclusion: youporn.com (aka. the largest streaming porn website) – not kid porn.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. Spam (368 comments) says:

    There is a message board site that I have visited a few times. Normally, content is restricted to people taking internet pictures and writing amusing captions for them. Sometimes these pictures are pornographic, and I have been told that on occasion, kiddy-porn has been posted (I consider myself fortunate not to have seen it). The thing about this message board is that all content gets completely deleted after a few days.

    Question I have is whether a few objectionable images, deleted after a day or so, amongst tens of thousands of other images, would be enough to have this site censored.

    Ie – is this law workable, or would the approach be that they have to save the poor helpless peons from themselves and ban first, ask later?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. thomasbeagle (77 comments) says:

    It seems odd that we should be asked to accept an extension of government censorship power when even the supporters of the the internet filtering agree that it won’t really stop anyone.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    “The expert advice I have is that the filtering scheme will not stop the hard core offenders. They trade in chat rooms, Usenet groups etc and will use overseas ISPs if necessary to get around any filters.”

    Sadly, most of the DIA prosecutions come about due to the inspectors ‘getting lucky’ in identifying users online or through information received from overseas.

    The fact is that, as DPF alludes to, most of the offenders in New Zealand seem to use peer to peer networking and the like to facilitate exchanges. There are other work arounds that I have seen in DIA briefs of evidence and technical information, but apprehension of offenders does appear to be haphazard.

    That is not a criticism of the DIA, it is just a statement of the reality of the internet.

    I do worry, as Redbaiter and Chris G point out above, that a blacklist will go the way of the Aussies and will take on a ‘social control’ favour. Once it is in place I struggle to believe that the DIA, Injustice and the Police won’t want to make it compulsory and then start to include so-called ‘hate’ sites, as chosen by them. It is the way of all government that once you have control of an area you begin to extend it. If you label it ‘preventive’ then you will obviously get support from the left, who think that there is no problem with micro-controlling people’s lives. Then all you need to do is wait for Labour to win an election.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. Falafulu Fisi (2,141 comments) says:

    swedish-devised software that matches site requests to a “banned” list and reroutes the requests to a government computer.

    First, That’s ridiculous. This shouldn’t be a government requirement. If private businesses want to do it themselves, it should be up to them and not the government to dictate.

    Second, why is there is always when government is looking for IT solutions they go offshore. There are a number of local software vendors that can do the same thing as the (expensive) swedish-devised software quoted above. These decision-makers should first look for solutions locally, because in doing so, it supports our local industry.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. Chris G (106 comments) says:

    F E Smith. As a left-winger I would adamantly oppose something as stupid as this, more so if it were extrapolated to ‘so called hate sites’ even if it were labelled ‘preventive’. Anecdotal perhaps, but it doesnt take a fool to realise that this scheme is flawed from start to finish, I dont see why a label like that would distract anyone regardless of political persuasion.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  18. Chuck Bird (4,910 comments) says:

    There are some restrictions on free speech and rightfully so. The issue is how they should be enforced.

    We laws against contempt of court to prevent a miscarriage of justice. However, we would be on very dangerous grounds if authorities monitored and blocked sites that they felt were in contempt of court. If people take it upon themselves to publish evidence that is not admissible in court they should be punished severely enough to discourage others from doing the same.

    From reading comments it appears there is no way to stop someone who really wants to view child porn from doing so. Hopefully it may be possible to detect and punish them after the event. The same I presume would apply to bomb making. Someone who is computer savvy could probably find a site. Blocking such sites might stop some nutter with fewer computer skills from making a bomb.

    There are some who would like bring in hate speech laws. I should have the right to say that homosexuals offend against children at a rate greatly disproportionate to their number in the population. However, if I state seriously that homosexuals should be stoned to death before they get a chance to molest your children that should be covered by incitement to violence. This sort of statement should be prosecuted but not blocked.

    Would it be possible to have a limited number of sites blocked for say child porn and bomb making but have a small group to monitor if those blocking the sites exceed their brief?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  19. Falafulu Fisi (2,141 comments) says:

    Spam said…
    Sometimes these pictures are pornographic, and I have been told that on occasion, kiddy-porn has been posted (I consider myself fortunate not to have seen it). The thing about this message board is that all content gets completely deleted after a few days.

    Yes, you’ve just highlighted the problem with filtering systems that relies on urls & textual content, since these systems will completely missed those sites which involve porno images only. There are a few off-shore systems that can detect pornographic image materials & automatically tagged these as objectionable material site.

    One of the earliest one ( around ~ 2000) that I recalled was a commercial system named WIPE that was developed based on the work of researchers from Stanford and it had reasonable accuracy back then. I am sure that they’re more accurate today. Original WIPE (Wavelet Image Pornography Elimination) paper is available. WARNING! The paper contains some porno images that may offend some readers.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  20. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    I would hope that would be everybody’s reaction, Chris, but the control of what the populace has access to is a common feature of left wing politics. You may be more libertarian than some, but sadly it is a feature of many on the left. Without knowing whether they are left or right (although I suspect left) have a look at the calls by some environmentalists to make climate change denial an offence. Fortunately that was mostly ignored by the rest of us, but it must raise some concerns.

    The fact is that the Australian internet filter is being pushed through by a left wing government, over the concerns of many in Oz. Sadly, restraint is not something the left seem to be able to practice well. You may see though the arguments, but many on your side of the political spectrum don’t.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  21. Rod (180 comments) says:

    Seems to me this is a total waste of taxpayers’ money and everyone’s time. All the baddies have to do is access the banned sites through one of the mega thousands of proxy sites all over the world and then how would the filter work?

    In fact, surely all but the most stupid of them have enough sense to do that already, so they don’t leave a trail?

    Maybe I’m technically ignorant, but on the face of it this looks more like an expensive PR exercise than anything of any practical use.

    And the irony of the filter technology being purchased from Sweden, the society in which the Pirate Bay group flourished, is interesting.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  22. side show bob (3,410 comments) says:

    Why would anyone in their right minds trust this sort of technology in the hands of government. The general populace is barely tolerated now, look how our government views referendum. Governments would give their left nuts to be able to filter the Internet, I wouldn’t trust the bastards with a sack of shit.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  23. kiki (408 comments) says:

    I must say that on this subject DPF, you seem to be taking a rather soft line almost like some slightly left wing apologist? Is this because it was a national budget that handed out the money?

    remember to save the children it’s not just porn. There’s drugs, gangs, extreme nationalists, racists, atheists, slightly extreme nationalists, Satanists, fatty foods, Islamist’, moderate nationalists, sugar, bomb making, Catholics, nationalists, guns, boy racers, alcohol and oh National.

    [DPF: I don’t see this as a partisan issue. The idea of a voluntary filter has been explored for three to four years. I doubt Ministers took a lot of notice of a $150K line item.

    A key thing for me is this is only child porn, not porn. One is a matter of private morals and the other exploits child rape and paedophilia.]

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  24. adc (558 comments) says:

    DPF, how does this differ from the australian scheme to which you were so strongly opposed?

    You say it’s voluntary. Not for ISP customers it’s not. Not really.

    But as for whether it’s technically difficult to have some customers filtered and others not. It’s not.

    Consider Xtra’s port 25 filtering (which they have been doing for about 3 years). You can opt out of that. They can do it. No matter what they tell you, they can, even if it means putting in a second gateway router which doesn’t listen to the DIA BGP updates and direct opted out customers through that one.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  25. kiki (408 comments) says:

    Voluntary but only pedophiles would change wouldn’t they as only they would be the ones with something to fear.

    A secret list control by some bureaucrat in a government department I have complete faith. Oh but as long as it is audited by another government department then it’ll be fine.

    Leave a loaded gun around and somebody will pull the trigger.

    England wanted to make seat belt wearing compulsory for everyone but face strong opposition from the proponents of freedom so they made seat-belts compulsory for children. Who would not want to keep their child safe?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  26. tvb (4,556 comments) says:

    Stopping the “tourist” user including children is no bad thing. Yes the hard core user will find a way around it and they can be prosecuted for possessing this stuff. Getting around the filter would take some doing and is prima facie evidence of determination.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  27. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Wrong DPF – The internet is the only medium currently free of some form of censorship or control, either by Government or owners. It needs to stay that way. There are volumes of items on the web that are extremely objectionable, particularly “hate” sites against all manner of people. Who gets to decide what is permitted and what is not? Can you imagine if Labour had control of web content?
    I detest anyone who is involved in any aspect of child pornography and would be happy to see them castrated when caught but this filter is not a good idea. No matter how well intentioned it is, the potential for abuse of power is too great.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  28. Chris G (106 comments) says:

    Granted FE Smith. But with regards to the nutters calling for climate change denial to be an offence, that is extremism, a problem for the left and the right. I understand that the Aus scheme is going through via a left-wing government, but under which government is the DIA being allowed to do this in NZ? Control and Power grabbing is not isolated to left wing politicans – I think its just done by Politicians.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  29. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    DPF said – “What the scheme *may* do is help prevent those “curious” about child porn from acting on their curiosity and end up breaking the law. Some of those go on to get “addicted” to such images and become professional traders etc.”

    Why would anyone be “curious” about child porn? This is simply a line not to be crossed. No grey area, no muddy waters, simply a place you don’t go or you will have seriously bad consequences dealt to you. I don’t wish to protect potential child pornographers, I would rather they were outed so we can deal to them and protect our kids.

    Chris G – spot on observation. It is irrelevant which label you stick on them, desire for power and control is a politician thing rather than a “left” or “right” thing. We really do all need to start looking at the issues and not the issuers. A good policy, idea or decision is good no matter what political party it comes from. Too many people ensconce themselves in their “corner” and that’s the end of it.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote