Please Senator Conroy, make it stop…

Asher Moses had a good report in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of days confirming to everyone what most of us have already realised; Federal Labor’s policy on ISP-level internet content filtering is in desperate need of abolition. Lots of questions remain unanswered at this stage, almost a year after Federal Labor took office. One would expect that at least some of these will be “answered” with respect to the results of the live testing that the government hopes to conduct shortly.

Here’s a list of just a few of the serious points that I think the government really needs to think about in relation to this policy:

1) Asher Moses suggests in his article that the proposed filtering would be unable to block content transferred through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. How will the Rudd Government work around this fairly fundamental problem?

2) What is the process for flagging internet content as “illegal”? What lag time can we expect between the time a site appears on the internet and the time that it is black listed?

3) What controls will be in place for determining whether a particular site or web page is considered worthy to be black listed? Can we expect, for example, that the online work of Bill Henson would be blacklisted?

4) Many search engines provide image search technology. How will the service enforced by the Rudd Government here prevent image searches from turning up dubious results? What constitutes a “clean” image file, and is technically feasible to accurately determine this on a real-time basis?

5) Is it really worthwhile to reduce the performance of the Internet for everyone just in order to block what realistically is a handful of sites in the greater scheme of things online? Have the costs of the resulting efficiency losses for Australian business been roughly quantified at this stage, given that every action on the Internet will effectively pass through a filtering layer?

Over the fold is an entertaining exchange from a recent estimates hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications and the Arts, which offers some insight into the sorts of problems that Senator Conroy needs to deal with.

I am not sure if this blog fits into the “wild and enthusiastic” category of blogs that Senator Conroy alludes to in the exchange, but he is of course kidding himself if he thinks there are not enormous (in my view – intractable) problems blocking the successful implementation of this scheme as intended.

Continue reading