Archive for the Politics Category
Clare Curran, the IT & Communications spokesperson, has confirmed that the Labour Party supports the DIA’s proposed Internet filtering scheme.
This is hardly a great surprise as the initial testing stages were done under the auspices of the Labour government.
Clare goes on to quote/paraphrase David Cunliffe (the Minister at the time):
He also stated that New Zealand had no intention of following Australia’s legislation of mandatory filtering by ISPs. New Zealand’s response to undesirable material has been an emphasis on education, as demonstrated by Netsafe. The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act had no legislative authority for website filtering, he said.
I find this a bit disappointing, especially when Clare has obviously been doing a lot of thinking around other Internet-related issues such as copyright. I think it might be time to do some thinking around the Internet filtering problem too.
The Green Party has announced that they are opposed to the DIA’s plans to filter the internet.
Metiria Turei has given a comprehensive answer to the questions I asked, including:
…the Green Party sees the role of ISPs as common carriers and that ISPs should not be made responsible for content that passes through their networks or for material on web sites which they host.
Green Party Policy explicitly states that ISPs must, within the constraints of legal requirements, provide a censorship free service for users who do not want any form of censorship.
I suggest you read the response in full.
I am still waiting for statements from the other major parties.
It looks like this site is going to be taken over by the topic of internet filtering for a little while. The normal (if infrequent) programming may or may not return at any time. Here’s a bit of an update on what’s happening.
Internet Filtering FAQs
Articles and Links
I am endeavouring to collect more information around this issue. This includes asking political parties for their policy, talking to ISPs, writing to the Chief Censor, etc, etc. I will post news as the responses come in.
I have created the @nzcensor Twitter feed for posting links to articles of interest. It will include new articles as well as any interesting older articles that I find. You can get it at:
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to suggest a link.
I believe the next step is to start a campaign against the planned internet filtering scheme. This will mean developing a policy followed by deciding on and implementing a strategy. Feel free to volunteer!
In March 2009, Communications and IT Minister Steven Joyce had the following to say about internet filtering:
We have been following the internet filtering debate in Australia but have no plans to introduce something similar here.
The technology for internet filtering causes delays for all internet users. And unfortunately those who are determined to get around any filter will find a way to do so. Our view is that educating kids and parents about being safe on the internet is the best way of tackling the problem.
Maybe Steven Joyce should be having a little chat to Nathan Guy, the Minister of Internal Affairs?
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?
I asked Internet NZ whether they have an official position for or against internet censorship by the government.
The response is that they are in discussions with the Department of Internal Affairs. The acting CEO Richard Currey also provided the following:
Governments have the right to determine what is and what is not objectionable, and to take action against that. InternetNZ’s view is that only objectionable material, as defined in the Act, could be a legitimate case for censorship.
I think we have to interpret that as Internet NZ being, if not in favour, at least not being against the net filtering scheme. This is an interesting contrast to the mission statement on their website:
We work to keep the Internet open and uncaptureable, protecting and promoting the Internet for New Zealand.
Our objective is “high performance and unfettered access for all” so the Internet continues to operate in an open environment that cannot be captured by any entity or individual for their own ends.
Government-run internet filtering sounds a bit like “capture” to me, and it definitely doesn’t sound like “unfettered access”.
I want to know what they are talking about in their discussions with the DIA.
The Department of Internal Affairs have responded to my questions about the $611,000 allocated for Censorship Enforcement Activity in the 2009/2010 budget.
Firstly, they confirm that the money is provided for each of the next four years.
Secondly, they talk about the increased cost of tracking down and prosecuting people for the possession and distribution of child sex abuse images.
Thirdly, and of most interest to me, there is a one-off capital contribution of $150,000 to the purchase of the software used in the internet filtering they intend to introduce this year.
The relevant section from the letter:
As you are aware, the Department’s compliance activity for 2009/2010 includes the implementation of a website filtering system for New Zealand. To date the development and operation of the trial system has been met from within the existing budget. Budget 2009 provides for a one-off capital contribution of $150,000 for the purchase of the software on which the filtering system is based.
The NZ Herald reports that a man’s appeal against a conviction for bringing in objectionable movies showing bestiality has been granted.
What interested me wasn’t the decision (which didn’t seem unreasonable) but the following:
After the computer was turned off, he thought nothing more about the movies until he was stopped at Auckland airport. … On the external hard drive of his computer a Customs officer found movie files depicting males and females having sex with dogs and horses.
I infer from this that NZ Customs are choosing to look at the contents of flash drives, external hard drives and laptops when they wish to.
I wonder if they look for pirated mainstream movies as well as the legally objectionable ones.
In the Internal Affairs Statement of Intent for 2009-2012 we find that they identify three outcomes where they “wish to make an impact as a department”. These are:
- Strong, sustainable communities/hapu/iwi
- New Zealand’s approach to identity is trusted and well led
- Safer communities which is further split into three including “People are protected from spam and objectionable material”
This is then extended on and added to in a number of places throughout the document. Some excerpts:
The Government has a strong focus on crime and making communities safe. Criminals are increasingly using the internet to engage in activities that put individuals and business at risk. The Department is focused on making communities safer by creating an environment in which people are protected from spam and objectionable material. The Department will continue to work in partnership with other agencies and use technology to detect and prosecute offenders.
As New Zealanders have one of the highest rates of computer usage in the world, we experience relatively high availability of, and exposure to, objectionable material. Increasing speed of access (eg, through broadband) also increases potential exposure to harmful material. Rapid development of technology creates risks and opportunities in the censorship area and underlines the need for us to maintain strong international networks. Offenders take advantage of the relative anonymity and security the Internet and new technology offer. The most recent significant development in Internet offending is the ability to share large numbers of publications through peer-to-peer applications. This creates challenges due to the volume of material and the fact that the identities of the users are not readily detectable.
Then we finally see what they intend to do:
Some of our key initiatives for 2009–12 are to:
- review the New Zealand child pornography risk profile to enable more targeted investigations
- continue to develop software applications to ensure investigation and enforcement in the censorship area remains effective against offenders’ ever-evolving methods of evading detection.
- continue to trial website filtering to assist in preventing New Zealanders from gaining access to websites containing objectionable material. This will restrict website hits and consequently diminish revenue to criminals.
So, in summary, there are no major changes in approach signaled by the budget, although there is that extra $611,000 of funding that will be used in this area.
Update – see article confirming that they have moved past a trial and are now actually paying for the system.