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Update on the Australian Internet Filtering

There has been an update (28th, June 2011) on the Australian Government’s internet filtering scheme and I’m afraid it still suffers from the usual limitations of such censorship schemes. To be fair they have made a few changes after the huge wave of crticism from the initial prototype scheme which frankly was ill conceived, badly implemented and well pointless to be honest.

So what has the Internet Industry Association (Australian Internet body) come up with this time?

Well it’s probably not surprising considering the current economic climate that it’s definitely pretty cheap. In fact there is virtually no new equipment required, nothing more than a few tweaks to current infrastructure. It’s important to keep costs down when you’re doing something as pointless as this sort of censorship of course.

Now of course no-one can argue with the basic assumption that we should protect children and restrict access to child pornography. The scheme will effectively implement the blocking of a list of such sites provided by Interpol and the Australian Federal Police. The onus will pretty much be on the ISPs using the big stick of section 313 if Australia’s Telecommunication Act. It’s not much more than a basic framework of a big blacklist of bad sites which are blocked by the ISPs in their routing tables.

The sites will also be blocked by the even more pointless method of modifying DNS tables. Just to clarify this method involves changing the DNS tables on Australian servers so that the ‘bad’ sites don’t resolve to their correct servers properly. It’s a very crude method, easily bypassed and one I’ve never liked. Messing around with the way the internet works is never a good idea but of course as well as being pointless and easily circumvented – it does have the advantage of being CHEAP!

Needless to say this probably won’t end here – lists of stuff you can’t do rarely get shorter. We’ll probably end up seeing lots of committees and groups lobbying for other web sites to be added to the list. Just as now you see some web sites about evolution being blocked in restrictive Muslim countries.

It’s an almost complete waste of time in my opinion. It’s headline grabbing nonsense that has very little real affect other than allowing a Government to pretend it’s doing something about a problem. The blocks and filtering will only be effective against people who don’t want to access these sites anyway – the vast majority of us. These filtering techniques are so easily bypassed by anyone with a mind to, there are literally thousands of security programs, secure VPNs and private proxies that just make these methods completely ineffective.

The other main issues is that the vast majority of this material is not stored on standard web servers. It’s shared by email, P2P and FTP – it’s stored and distributed on private networks and areas like the darknet. None of these filtering will effect these distribution points.  Censorship is being implemented against the wrong people – innocent users of the internet.   It will have no effect on sophisticated rings of technologically savvy paedophiles across the internet.

But the real concern is that it’s simply posturing and blocking access to a problem rather than trying to solve it. It doesn’t help the victims by altering routing tables so that Australian citizens can’t access the material – it’s still there, the victims are still victims. This posturing would be better replaced by concerted efforts to track down arrest and bring to justice the people who are creating and distributing this material. It’s of course much more difficult to do but does actually have an impact.  Of course it will create more demand for an Aussie proxies perhaps.

What we’ll end up with is more pointless censorship on the average, law abiding internet users.

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