Update 29/06: InternetNZ has a policy paper on internet filtering

Much tech freedom writing recently has challenged the regulatory creep towards making ISPs defacto police. The challenges to Section 92A of the recent Copyright bill spearheaded by the Creative Freedom Foundation, and the Wellington Declaration against the ACTA trade agreement, both emphasized the need for Safe Harbour provisions protecting ISPs and other intermediaries like search engines, and hosting companies from liability for the actions of their customers and users. Articles by SearchSecurity, Out-Law, and Bitlaw all discuss the legal minefield created if this doesn’t happen. One example is given on privacy website Anonymous-Proxies, in an article about ISPs being held liable for copyright infringement in Denmark because their customers can access the Pirate Bay through their service.

Thanks to the folks at TechLiberty, I just learned that despite my squawking about the proposed mandatory filtering of the internet in Ozzie, I didn’t know about a homegrown Great Firewall Of China which is being erected by stealth around the netspace of Aotearoa by our own DIA (Department of Internal Affairs), henceforth known as MiniTrue. So far the filter is voluntary, but already a number of major ISPs operating in Aotearoa are already routing their customers traffic through the DIA’s filtering server, and others are considering joining them. Several others have ruled out participating so long as the scheme is voluntary, notably Slingshot/ Callplus.

The software running on the DIA computer is WhiteBox, a product of a swiss company NetClean Technologies, founded by Christian Sjoberg. The vendor company is Watchdog International, a NZ-based start-up, who are also involved a new WhiteBox based ISP filtering scheme in the UK, as well as the aforementioned Oz trial, which combines WhiteBox with the filter list maintained by the Australia Communications and Media Authority, the Oz MiniTrue. Watchdog removed a discussion paper about problems with the Oz trial from their company website. This removed document was then added to Wikileaks. According to Cyberlaw:

“WikiLeaks was itself then added to the blacklist and became the subject of a police raid in Germany and Federal Police investigation in Australia.”

As an internet freedom researcher, this sure sends a chill up my spine. Watchdog’s website also claims to be working with WhiteBox implementations in Canada and Europe, crowing that one of its clients, TeliaSonera International Carrier

“owns and manages over 43,000 kilometres of fiber-optic cable and has more than 100 points of presence across Europe, the US and Asia. Over 85 percent of the European Internet market use the TeliaSonera IP backbone.”

All your base are belong to us!

The implications of state filtering of the internet don’t seem to bother Computerworld, whose bizarrely titled article  ‘Kiwi ISPs see no impact from Net filtering‘ draws that conclusion by focussing mainly on the fairly trivial issue of whether network performance would be degraded by filtering.

There were only a couple of paragraphs mentioned the much more significant freedom of expression issues created by ISPs subscribing their customers to an externally controlled list of banned sites. Which to me is a bit like reporting on a story about a government department carrying out random inspections to check couples are using condoms, and spending most of the story talking about whether this would result in performance anxiety and loss of erections, and concluding that since it didn’t in initial trials, there’s nothing to write home about.

Personally I don’t want the state or anyone else regulating my sex life, and I don’t want them deciding which internet content is wanted and unwanted either.

Update 2/07: Apparently internet filtering is not so bad, since the DIA are not talking about making it mandatory (yet), and it’s only kiddy porn sites being blocked. If people are abusing children, I want them found, and stopped. Filtering the internet to stop some users (the ones that can’t hack around the filter) seeing images that have already been made does nothing to achieve this. Kiddy porn could just as easily be used as an excuse for any kind of invasive policing, from random searches of people’s hard drives, to random searches of homes to see if there are kidnapped children being filmed fucking in the basement.

Exploiting the horrific abuse of children as a respectable cover for the erection of Orwellian surveillance tactics by law enforcement is filthy, deceptive, underhanded, and unacceptable in a free and democratic country.

Filed June 27th, 2010 under independent media
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