Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A Political Post (Apologies)

I am posting this because I am so concerned as to the full ramifications of a Mandatory Internet Filter and how it could be abused by this government and, indeed, future governments. This filter is not about 'protecting the children'. It's about a government censoring the people. If the legislation becomes Law, Australia will be joining countries such as China and Iran and with that prospect in mind, I am deeply ashamed.

I am perfectly capable of deciding what I read, view on TV and what pages I visit on the internet. I do NOT appreciate a Nanny Government making these decisions for me.

Today, Australia Day, many Australian websites have been blacked out in protest to the proposal of a Mandatory Internet Filter for Australians. I am not technically capable of inserting the code to black this blog out, so this is the next best step.

Information about Internet censorship


Please take 5 minutes to read this message as it's extremely important for your continued access to an uncensored and functional internet, and to help protect children on the internet.

------- BACKGROUND -------
The Rudd Government is currently planning to introduce a mandatory Internet filtering law from some time in 2010. Your ISP (the company you get your internet access from) will be asked to censor between 1000 and 10,000 websites deemed to be "Refused Classification" (aka "RC", many; if not most of these sites are NOT illegal).
They are marketing this as "protecting the children" by reducing access to Child Pornography, something which I am all for doing, but unfortunately, this is a very ineffective means of doing so, with far more drawbacks than benefits.
It is important to remember that this is the same government that’s REDUCING the budget of the Federal Police unit whose job it is to catch the paedophiles this filter will effectively help to protect.

I respect that you may think this a good idea. I for one completely support any measure which will yield any improvement to child safety. However, this proposal is being done in a way similar to many "political" things — it is being sold by the politicians as far more effective than the experts believe it will be, and has the added possibility that in a few years, it will censor far more than just websites of "refused classification".

As it currently stands, this filter will cost the Australian public around $43 million. This amount however is only the tip of the iceberg. It does not include the costs to your ISP — costs that they will almost certainly have to pass on to you. Similarly, it does not include the ongoing, and potentially massive, task of maintaining the filter list, which is absolutely vital if there is to be even the slightest chance of the filter actually doing anything productive. These costs, both to the government and passed on to you by your ISP are quite likely to be greater than that of far more effective PC based systems which can be easily purchased and installed and be tailored to your individual family's needs.
However cost is far from the only argument against the proposed filter.

There is the illusion of increased safety of children, and their protection from on-line threats and predators, and the issue of uncensored access to the internet.

The main message here is that if this filter ever becomes a reality, do not presume that it will make children safer and DO NOT use it as an excuse to reduce supervision of children whilst they use the Internet. If you believe children are going to be safer because of the filter, then read on and I will explain why that is an illusion.

Here are 10 things you should ask yourself (and the Government) about the filter so that you are more informed:

------- 1) People don't just "stumble" across child porn online or search Google for it. -------
Child porn is already filtered out of search results by all search engines.
So how do people access it?
- Peer-2-Peer networks (High speed sharing of large files like videos)
- Usenet (Direct File sharing)
- Sharing the web page addresses directly
- Encrypted websites (Where their privacy is secured, like your online banking, paypal, etc.)

------- 2) How do paedophiles find children online to perform these disgusting acts on/with? -------
- Social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace
- Chat Rooms
- Instant messaging programs like MSN and Yahoo
- Email

------- 3) What does the ISP filter block? -------
A specific, secret list of website addresses only.
This list includes a number of perfectly legal sites deemed politically "unsavoury", such as euthanasia and anti-abortion websites as well as perfectly harmless websites that were hacked a long time ago, and have been fixed.
This list includes any and all content which the regulatory body deems as "Refused Classification", including any perfectly legal site which does not meet the strict definitions for classification under one of the existing (G, PG, M, MA, R, X, etc) ratings.

If a site hasn't been reported for classification (so as it can be refused that classification), it will not be blocked.
Nobody of good concience is ever likely to find the paedophiles (already secret) websites, so who exactly does the government believe will be reporting these sites? If nobody who knows about them will report them, they will never be blocked.

------- 4) What doesn't the ISP filter block? -------
- "R" Rated pornographic and adult material
- "X" Rated pornographic and adult material
- (As above) Any website containing any content which has not been specifically reported to the authorities and then subsequently refused classification
- Instant messaging
- Facebook and Myspace
- Email
- Peer-2-Peer
- Usenet
- Chat Rooms
- Encrypted Websites

------- 5) Can the filter be worked around to still access child porn? -------
YES, undoubtedly, and easily. You can bet the same people who share their filthy habit of child porn and website addresses will also share the very simple methods for bypassing the filter, which not only makes the filter pointless, but also makes it harder for Police to catch them. ie the Government filter will NOT make your child safer.

------- 6) How easy is the filter to evade? -------
It is extremely easy for any person with the inclination to do so, and access to Google.
a) Both an independent trial by Telstra and the official Government trial report that every single option tested was easy to bypass.
b) The best success rate (at preventing a filter being bypassed) allowed 10% of known bypassing methods to work. It also caused the greatest slow-down (Greater than a 40% reduction in speed).
c) Children already know how to bypass similar filters installed at their schools (http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1567015/school-net-security-failing-grade)

------- 7) Does the Government plan to make evading the filter harder? -------
Under the current proposal, no.
a) There will be no penalties for evading the filter and no plans are in place to make it harder to evade.
b) Proxies, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), Encryption, and Tunneling programs (all simple ways of evading the filter) will not be blocked by the filter.

------- 8) Are there any technical drawbacks to the filter? -------
Yes, it is likely to cause slowdowns on the internet for everybody.
a) If you're on dialup, you probably will not notice any difference.
b) If you have fast internet, (EG. ADSL, up to 8Mbps) your internet is likely to be slowed up to 10%
c) If you have VERY fast internet (EG. ADSL2+ or Cable, 8-24 and 30, and 100 Mbps are all currently available in Australia) your internet is likely to be slowed significantly more, but no one knows for sure as The Government has failed to test the filters at these speeds.
d) This type of filtering does not "scale" well. As more people use faster internet, so too the effect on the speed of that internet will be worse. The proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) will be 100Mbps and is designed to give almost everyone access to these speeds. The government has done no testing of any kind on any network with even one tenth of that speed, or even one percent of the likely number of connections.
e) There will also likely be some increases to ping times. This will increase online gaming lag (for games such as World of Warcraft and others) as well as make VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, aka Internet Telephones) less effective, decreasing the quality of the cals)

------- 9) What if I can't access a perfectly safe website? -------
Unfortunately, even the best filter could accidentally block upwards of 3 million websites in its attempts to block less than 1000 child porn websites that's 300,000% of what they are meant to be blocking.

------- 10) What if my website gets blocked? How would I know, and how do I fix that? -------
The government board, ACMA decides what is blocked based on complaints and maintains a secret blacklist (which has already been leaked online once already). Unfortunately there is no process for informing people that their website is blocked, or how to appeal that decision. There is also no evidence that anyone is, or will be held responsible for any loss of business you may encounter if your website is wrongly blocked by the system.

If you, like me, find that any of this is unacceptable, please visit http://www.nocleanfeed.com and make your voice heard by contacting your local and federal members of parliament and putting your vote on the line, and please consider throwing an Australia day party ( http://www.EFA.org.au ), blacking out your twitter/FB profile pic or website ( http://www.internetblackout.com.au/ ) or attend the nationwide protest in your capital city on the 30th of Jan ( http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=200213317223&ref=mf )

If you are concerned about protecting your children online, there are many easy ways to do this from home, where you can control what level of protection you offer. First and foremost, supervise your children whilst online and teach them about the internet and its dangers just like you would teach them how to cross a road. Nothing can or should replace good supervision and education. Websites like Facebook have 13+ age requirements for a reason. Please feel free to visit this website for more information: http://www.microsoft.com/protect/parents/childsafety/age.aspx
Just like crossing the road, the internet can be a safe place, if young children are supervised and assisted, and older children have been taught the safe way to proceed.

I hate chain mail as much as the next person, but this is kind of different. It's not regarding an issue that's no longer relevant, I'm not asking you to sign anything, and I'm not saying your true love's name will be revealed only if you send this on to 20 people, so please forward this email on to anyone in your contact list you think would read this (or even if you think they won't).

The government is determined to hide the truth about their filter with misleading press releases, and using the ETS and NBN as media cover.

For a summary of key trial reports and media stories on the ISP filter, see here http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/?tag=cleanfeed

Most importantly, please TALK about this issue with your friends and family. Those who are technically minded and the non-technical alike need to make this a matter of public knowledge. Without doing that, messages like this can be forwarded all we like and nothing will change.

Thankyou for taking the time to read this message.


Addendum: No matter what I do, Blogger will NOT allow me to reduce the font size of my opening paragraph. Please do not think I am shouting! I am very concerned about this legislation but I am certainly not shouting.

Thanks again, Blogger!


Denis Wilson said...

Welcome back to Blogging.
You have got all steamed up on this issue. I see. Good on you.
I propose to tell my friends to visit your site to read this post.

Junior Lepid said...

Hello Denis and thanks for your support.

The weather has been pretty moth unfriendly during this month.

I've been fairly active on the political front, writing to MPs and being met with deathly silence on the subject of the government's proposed mandatory internet filter! No response from the Libs (other than 'spam' from our Mr. Abbott!) I've also been busy organising and distributing in my local area a Petition to the Senate.

Only time will tell whether Australia joins regimes such as China, Iran, Burma and NK!

Such a dastardly thing to enforce on every Australian Internet user as well as a terrible waste of money when there is already an alternative out there in the form of PC filters.