Archives For censorship

Inquisitr: Australian Government Body Goes After Encyclopedia Dramatica In Epic Waste Of Taxpayer Dollars

The creeping fascism just keeps getting worse.

I mean what sort of crusader Government attempts to take legal action over a site that it has ZERO jurisdiction over?

And crusader is the right term. This is a moral crusade by a Government led by a religious nutter that has no respect for the fundamental human right of free speech.

Yeah, yeah, AHRC is a separate body, and yes, it has tried it on before (although not like this.) But they know where the funding comes from, and they’re trying to impress their paymasters now….least is there any other explanation for this pure insanity?

Our Government and its statutory bodies continue to embarrass us on an international level, and I think without doubt now that it has to go at the next election.

God, if you don’t want to vote Liberal, vote Green even. Just don’t vote for Chairman Rudd. Please!

Budget night Tuesday night. Although the Government’s “cyber safety” policy was costed in last years budget, the massive change to Government finances could see a revision to what was announced last year. Here’s what to look for.

Last years costings here as the start point. $125.8m total.

ISP funding

The original commitment included “a one?¢‚Ǩ‚Äòoff subsidy towards the costs of installing Internet Service Providers filters” from 2009-2010. It wasn’t clear who would pay this, but the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy had $32.5m allocated to it under the plan for 08-09 (a huge spike), followed by only $6.6m in 09-10.

AFP Funding

The Government has already stripped $2.8m from the AFP for its Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team. Given the likely cost cutting measures across all Departments, further money could be stripped here.

ACMA Funding

For the implementation of the plan, ACMA was allocated $2.8m for each of 09/10 and 10/11. It’s difficult to break this out, because ACMA receives separate funding for its existing censorship activities.

What we do know though is that the censorship plan must include an increased workload for ACMA, after all, how can you implement a censorship plan without a review and enforcement process.

Now We’re Talking noted on the ACMA direct expenditure after the 2008 budget

ACMA funding is projected to fall from $99m in 2007-08 to $94m in 2008-09 and to $90m thereafter. Consistent with this average staffing levels are projected to fall from 555 in 2007-08 to 530 in 2008-09.

Talking points

If ISP funding is cut for filters, the extra cost to the consumer of internet access if the censorship scheme goes ahead.

If AFP cyber safety funding is cut, why are we doing less to track down child porn etc.

If ACMA funding is cut (further), how is the scheme going to be enforced?

Additional points

If anyone knows of any additional budget items we should be looking at in tonights budget, please leave a comment.

Update: thx to @aussexparty on Twitter, keep an eye on funding through the Attorney Generals Department for funding for the classification board.

A quick Google search and I couldn’t find a break out figure for the board in the AG’s budget allocations, but this isn’t to say that it isn’t there somewhere. Will do some more digging. The implications should be that the implementation of Internet censorship would in theory require more resources for the classification board, given that ACMA must refer take down notices (and presumably entries to the blacklist) to the censorship board for final classification.

The Register: Aussie censors implement six degrees of separation policy

This article received massive attention overseas since it was published late last week, including top of Reddit and Digg. It notes that EFA received a link deletion notice for “linking to a link to allegedly harmful content.”

The crux confirms a concept I mentioned in Crikey March 20, although in that case I referred to Google links (however noted the 6 degrees of separation theory, saying

Here?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s the catch: if the Google search results are declared prohibited content (which they should be if ACMA is to apply the law evenly to all sites), linking to those search results would also be illegal. Any site linking to the search results becomes illegal, and any sites linking to the sites linking to the search results become illegal ?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ and sometime next year, every site on the internet is illegal in Australia because of the Government?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s crusade to save us all from the things they don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t like.

In a later column, I noted that Google was bizarrely exempt, but noted the idea was still the same: linking to a site that links to something that is RC, is in breach of the Act.

The story also runs counter to the claims by Kim Holburn that the proposition that linking to a page that links to RC isn’t illegal.

It’s worst nightmare stuff, and in this case I wish I wasn’t right, and Kim Holburn was.

The unanswered question though is how far is ACMA going to take the link to a link policy? For example, if the EFA was hosted in the United States, would linking to the EFA who linked to the link to the RC then become subject to a takedown notice and/ or fine? (yes, that’s a tongue twister, but that’s part of the point on how stupid this is.)

That’s the perilous question. We’ve gone past direct linking, but how far will it now go down the chain? Could half the internet, or more one day be RC according to ACMA?

Won’t someone think of the children, although only the children of ALP members of Parliament, because even some of the kiddy groups can see that the Government’s Great Firewall of Australia is nonsense.

via SMH:

Support for the Government’s plan to censor the internet has hit rock bottom, with even some children’s welfare groups now saying that that the mandatory filters, aimed squarely at protecting kids, are ineffective and a waste of money….

Holly Doel-Mackaway, adviser with Save the Children, the largest independent children’s rights agency in the world, said educating kids and parents was the way to empower young people to be safe internet users.

She said the filter scheme was “fundamentally flawed” because it failed to tackle the problem at the source and would inadvertently block legitimate resources.

Furthermore there was no evidence to suggest that children were stumbling across child pornography when browsing the web. Doel-Mackaway believes the millions of dollars earmarked to implement the filters would be far better spent on teaching children how to use the internet safely and on law enforcement.

“Children are exposed to the abusive behaviours of adults often and we need to be preventing the causes of violence against children in the community, rather than blocking it from people’s view,” she said.

“The constant change of cyberspace means that a filter is going to be able to be circumvented and it’s going to throw up false positives – many innocent websites, maybe even our own, will be blacklisted because we reference a lot of our work that we do with children in fighting commercial sexual exploitation.”….

James McDougall, director of the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, expressed similar views to Save the Children.

He said the mandatory filters simply would not work and children should be able to make decisions for themselves. Concerned parents could easily install PC-based filters on their computers if they desired, or ask their internet providers to switch on voluntary filtering.

Hey hey, ho ho, Senator Conroy has to go, hey hey, ho ho….

First it was illegal content blocked in a clean feed that must be offered by ISP’s (Beazley 2006), but on an opt in basis. Then it was illegal and “offensive” content on a mandatory clean feed that people could opt in to (ALP Policy 2007 Election), then out of (Minister Conroy late 2007). Then there was no opt out, and instead it was illegal and offensive content blocked for everyone, and anything not remotely kid friendly blocked as the second choice (Minister Conroy).

But just when you thought it couldn’t get any better:

“The pilot will specifically test filtering against the ACMA blacklist of prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content,” Senator Conroy told Parliament.

Yep, now it’s “unwanted” content as well. Feeling like a fascist totalitarian society already? I’d say China, but I’m not sure they’re always quite so bad and blatant, because they at least go through the pretence of making most of their filtered content illegal under local laws.

I’m guessing then that perhaps the Liberal Party might find themselves blocked, after all their criticism would be “unwanted” by the Government. Newspapers; press the button, not looking for you.

That might be a little extreme, but here’s the catch: The Government won’t disclose who gets on the list and under what grounds, so it really does smell like fascism.

This is a joke that just when you think its bad, it gets worse again. Surely there must be some Human Rights treaty Australia has signed up to that the Government has now breached, and a Pro Bono lawyer who is willing to take the good fight to the United Nations or similar?

(the quote is via who we’re not linking to after they threatened us over some pictures we ran on The Inquisitr, and who despite numerous requests continue to lift stories and the odd pic themselves unattributed from The Inquisitr….actually, maybe SHOULD be in the filter 😉 )

The results of the Australian Governments first test of internet censorship have been released today (pdf) and The Australian, as usual, runs the Government spin:

THE federal Government will embark on the next step of its internet filtering strategy after initial trials proved successful, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said….

In the past, one of the main drawbacks of the technology has been web performance degradation but the government now says the trial showed that ISP-level filtering technology had significantly improved compared with technology used in a 2005 trial.

“It is very encouraging to see that the industry has made significant progress with ISP filtering products and we are heartened that many of the products tested are commercially available, with many of them already deployed overseas,” Senator Conroy said in a statement….

Senator Conroy said the tests proved that the web filtering technology could be expanded to a wider base.

A side note: I always love it how some mainstream journalists here preach that bloggers don’t research a story properly then run a Government press release without actually reading the paper or providing critical analysis on it. But I digress.

The ACMA paper looked only at the technology in use and did not consider the cost of any filtering technology, a critical consideration when implementing broadscale internet censorship in Australia.


The paper finds that filters in place, but not actually filtering content (bizarre test, I know, but the results are telling) resulted in the following degredation of service (by which you would presume meant reduction in data, hence speed):

below 30 per cent for all products; and
below 10 per cent for five of the six products.

In short form: even when not filtering content, the filters for all products saw a decrease in internet speeds of up to 30%. For 5 products, the speed reduction of up to 10%.

When actively filtering content, these figures change again

2% for one product;
in the range 22 to 30 per cent for three products; and
in excess of 75 per cent for two products.

Translated: one product only caused a 2% drop, 3 products caused speed reductions in the vacinity of 22-30%, two products a staggering greater than 75%. Notably the product that causes the least speed reduction is not named nor related to the success in filtering results (which we are about to get to), so it may have a lower impact on speed, but it may have higher rates of failure in actually censoring content.

Effectiveness of Blocking

ACMA found the following success rates in filtering nominated content:

above 0.88 for all products; and
0.94 or above for three products.

88% accuracy on all products, half with 94% or above.

How those figures relate to the next set I’m not sure, because this set indicates the failure to block nominated content

below 0.08 for all products; and
below 0.03 for four products.

Maybe it’s buried further into the paper, but if the base is 88% yes, and the fail rate worst figure is 8%, where’s the missing 4%?

Overblocking may be a new term to most, but it means censoring content that isn’t meant to be censored. The results

The previous trial reported a difference in the level of overblocking (that is, the proportion of content that was blocked that should not have been blocked) between the most and the least accurate filter products in the range six to 62 per cent. The corresponding levels measured in the current trial varied across a significantly smaller range?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùbetween one and eight per cent, with most falling under three
per cent. The median overblocking rate was significantly improved from the previous trial.

Yes, somewhere between 1-8% of perfectly legal sites were blocked in the trials. But that’s ok, because it use to be 6-62%.

Here in lies the problem with censorship: once it starts, it rarely stops, and in this case, innocent content providers and online retailers may find themselves blocked for no other reason that the technical failure of the Government’s plan.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is hell bent on selling a rabid, three legeed dog no matter what the cost to ordinary Australian’s.

22-30% reductions in internet access speeds are not acceptable at a time where Australia lags behind most of the world in Internet access connection speeds. Consider also that our distance from the rest of the world delivers us slower access times anyway, where as my 14mbps connection in Melbourne does not deliver the same results as the same connection in the United States, simply due to the time data takes to travel across the world (or lag time).

That censorship will no longer deliver 75% drop in speed doesn’t make 22-30% acceptable. Any cut in internet speeds places Australia at a further disadvantage in the information age.

Success rates of 90% in filtering trials are irrelevant on two fronts. First, the testing considered a list of sites to be blocked, but as anyone sitting behind a corporate firewall knows, or even in China for that matter, it’s extremely easy to bypass content filtering. Those that want the content the Government is so keen to censor will still get at it. Secondly, it is NOT acceptable that in a democratic, free country that the Government deems it acceptable to implement technologies that censors any amount of legal content, let alone up to 8% of it. Who are these future victims of accidental Australian Government censorship? will they be compensated? Would we accept the Government accidentally taxing millions of Australians, or denying them social services? Imagine being removed from Government databases, to be a non-entity in your own country. The outrage even in a handful of cases would be loud and long, and yet our Government is planning to accidentally block Australians doing their business online from being seen by other Australians.

Censorship is always flawed and always has unintended victims. The victims of Senator Conroy’s bloody mindedness will be every internet user in Australia, through increased costs, lower speeds, and for some of them, to be denied their legal rights in what is suppose to be a free country.