Why Internet Filtering Concerns Me

I have recently been writing some entries about internet censorship/filtering and how it is about to be implemented in New Zealand. (See my Frequently Asked Questions list for more information about it.)

I thought it might be worth explaining why I am concerned about the prospect of an internet filtering scheme being implemented in New Zealand.

  • There is no external oversight of which sites are banned. I believe that censorship in a democratic society should be as open as possible.
  • While the internet filtering may be voluntary for ISPs, with most of the big ISPs on board (i.e. Telecom/Xtra, TelstraClear, Vodafone/Ihug) it will not be voluntary for normal internet users. I also believe it will be very politically difficult for an ISP to withdraw from the scheme once they have joined.
  • It is being implemented in a very “under the radar” way so as to avoid the fuss that has been raised in other countries such as Australia. If we are going to implement internet filtering I believe it should be done openly and through law, not stealthily and through a pseudo-voluntary scheme.
  • It is giving the government a powerful tool to suppress information on a medium that many people find too open. While the current public plan is to only use it for child pornography, I expect that it will be expanded to cover other material in reaction to events.
  • The proposed internet filtering will not be very effective as a) it relies on manually adding websites to the filter, b) it is relatively easy for motivated users to circumvent it by using web proxies located in other countries. If so… why are we bothering?

2 Responses to “Why Internet Filtering Concerns Me”

  1. 1Oh yeah? on Jul 13, 2009 at 11:44 am:

    A recent report from the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) stated that the number of domains offering child pornography is measured in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands. Entering them manually should not be a really big problem, as I guess that the police in various countries will cooperate and share information, and will ensure that they are all checked by a human being, probably a police officer. This will make sure that the content is actually illegal and not based on domain name, metadata words or search terms etc.

    Giving out the list publicly would be just stupid. It would be a “how to” for all bad guys and offenders in other countries, as well as a incentive for your guys to actually find a proxy in another country.

    Should it be used for other stuff than child pornography? I dont know. We do want our police to protect us against crime in RL, on a multitude of levels. Should they do it on the Internet too? I dont know, its a really big discussion.. :-)

  2. 2some guy in germany on Jul 16, 2009 at 5:05 am:

    @#1

    We’re having rather similar problems here in Germany.

    > This will make sure that the content is actually illegal and not based on domain name,
    > metadata words or search terms etc.

    Dream on …

    > Giving out the list publicly would be just stupid. It would be a “how to” for all bad
    > guys and offenders in other countries, as well as a incentive for your guys to
    > actually find a proxy in another country.

    so, for the internet filtering to work, the list has to be secret .. but if the list
    is secret the so-called filtering becomes indistinguishable from censorship.

    > Should it be used for other stuff than child pornography? I dont know.

    Experience in germany shows: as soon as censorship becoems possible,
    everyone and their dog clamors to have his pet peeve added to the list.
    – “Killer games”
    – “Illegal Downloads”
    – “political dissent”

    This is not “a slippery slope”. its a gaping abyss.
    one step forward and you’re in freefall.

    > We do want our police to protect us against crime in RL, on a multitude of levels.

    I Strongly disagree. “protection against crime” is much too unclear a task
    to be assigned to anyone, let alone the police (legalized thugs).

    Ideally, the (non-traffic-cop-varietey of the) police investigates suspected crimes, apprehends the perpetrators and hands them off to the judicial system. In doing so,
    they reduce the number of a) crimes and b) criminals in your area.
    (Which might give you a feeling of safety…)

    Anything beyond that, like
    – going after “suspected criminals”
    – going after “suspected minorities” (including “internet-savvy people”)
    – going after “thought crime”
    – Censorship (in RL and on the intenet)
    – Domestic Spying
    – etc.
    is not *protecting* society but actually *destabilizing* it.