The NoCleanFeed List


What the hell has got into Australia in the last few years.

Now we have the railroaded implementation of Labor (right wing christian) Senator Conroy’s Internet filter.   In case you have been off the planet for the last month, Conroy is now rolling towards his personal agenda of implementation. Our only hope is that he has to enforce it with a Bill in Parliament.

The filter he proposes is a multiple tier one.  The first tier being the mandatory ISP driven automatic   filtering of all the web nasties that are illegal under current legislation. The second tier is the the removal of all material that is deemed inappropriate.  This effectively makes the internet safe place for children.

Again it’s time to get political on this blog.  I talked about this issue previously.   But now it has gone from a mild concern to the stupidity of implementation of an extended “on the run” person extension of labor policy [PDF].  It’s time that we all stood up and acted.

So What is the Big Deal.

Sure the filter is going to block the porn, the deviant sites and other such nasties so kids can’t stumble across them.  Okay that is good.   I have no object to that at all. None!  But…  you knew there was a but.

Closest to date on what Conroy is really thinking comes from questions in a Senate Standing Committee when Conroy is questioned [PDF] by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam:

We are talking about mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material … we are enforcing current law and ACMA determine this based on existing law … so you can have a chat with them about how they go determining it. But the general sort of stuff that we are talking about is child porn and they are the sorts of sites we are targeting. We do not believe that you should be able to opt in to child porn. I am sure you do not either.

What really gets me is that, Conroy has also bundled the great catch all “inappropriate content”. What is inappropriate. For example, what is inappropriate to a 5 year old girl maybe critical information for a 14 year old girl on sex education, drug use and teenage pregnancy. Under Conroy that is going to be questionable and sanitised.

So far as proposed by Senator Conroy the filter systems will not be a manual list, but in general and automated filtering process based on various criteria, supplemented with short white and black lists.

Lots of people have been discussing this issue, it’s basically not that clear and simple that some people are making out.  It’s not a case of  – “oh but it’s illegal, so who cares”.

Okay in the way this is all about bringing the internet inline with the current practices for general publications.   But with the internet there is just way too much information for any board or committee to rate.   Hence the use of filtering algorithms with a list of know bad sites

The problem is that these algorithms that are used are not that perfect.  They have a percentage of false positives, yeap they get in wrong from time to time.  Now with a high number of web sites in the world,  Even an error rate of 2-3% is way too high,  Consider if suddenly by random a few thousand books where removed from the public library system from no real reason.  Would we really stand for it, all for the greater good of a perfect socialistic society.  I don’t think so.  Is it worth while to have all that information lost for the sake of society.

Watching the Watchers

Then consider some of the sites that don’t have a method to classify them.   For example Second Life. As you know it’s not a web site it is a virtual world,  so does that make it a game or something else.   If you say it’s a game then it gets banned as it have content that is way over the MA15+ in certain areas (remember Australia doesn’t have an adult computer game rating), this type of internet application is a problem, it has no media type.

It has also been pointed out that there is a fair chance, going on previous records, that the banned list of sites will not be publicly available whether they are the tier one list or tier two banned list.

This is a little extreme if you consider that we do know that books, magazines, comics, films and computer games that are banned in each state (yes it is controlled on a state level) .  But this could be a closed list, one has to question why.

There is also the technical issue of the white list to counter an over zealous filtering algorithms, who gets to decide what goes on what list.

My main concern is who is watching the watchers, the system needs to be totally transparent, with no closeted under informed public servant making any key decision at all.  There needs to be space for public review.   We need to look at the freedom of information and not the dictates of minority political groups to set the agenda.

Time for Action

So what can we do.

The Australia Web Industry Association (AWIA)  has an information site – Keep Your Filter off Our Internet, and there is the No Clean Feed campaign, Electronic Frontiers Australia plus dozens of other sites and information sources.

The Australian Computer Society, didn’t what I expected them to do, fence sit, send it off to a committee, suppose it’s reflective of the membership base of the board.

You can contact Senator Conroy’s Office and complain, but really he is not going to change  his mind, best we can hope for is that he alters the proposal or waters it down somewhat.

The real clincher is to contact the power brokers in the upper house (Senate), as the lower house is dominated by labor.   In this case it’s the Green’s senators, Bob Brown (Tas), Christine Milne (Tas), Sarah Hanson-Young (SA), Scott Ludlam (WA) and
Rachel Siewert (WA). That said contacting and at least talking to your local member will help.

With any correspondence I have found that the best method to get results or be remembered by ministerial staff and the relevant member of parliament is to do everything from a personal perspective.   That means ringing them having a chat.   Don’t bother with a chain letter, a personally written one is better, just ensure you research it well.  Understand that a staffer will read the letter, and it will be answered by public servant if it’s going to a minister.

First of it’s no good talking technical on this.  Unless your are figurehead from a technical view point like iinet’s Mike Malone It’s not a a technical issue. It’s not about the speed.   It’s about the information, more often it’s about sex.  It’s about the morality of  information.   The media have battered it about that it’s for the children, and the filtering is for them.

It’s about emotion.   Politically driven emotion. This a policy leveraged of the core of the current government, to placidate the wishes of the moral minority in the positions of power in the senate, particularly Family First and the Prime Minister’s personal preferences.  Again we see the Church influencing state.  Remember any counter argument has to be the same when discussing in the public forum.

I’m not happy on this at all.  Yes I don’t want the dirty underbelly of the web, but its not really about that is it, I question:

  • Who is watching the watchers?
  • Is loosing a percentage of the information worth the effort for a politically religiously motived policy?
  • Are we letting a minority group dictate the fabric of our information society?

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  1. My understanding is the manditory filter will be for illegal content. I can understand people arguing somethings that are illegal shouldn’t be (e.g. Material about committing suicide that people wanting euthanasia might use) but I can’t understand the concept that a filter on that material should be optional? If we start having law enforcement as optional can put my hand up to opt out of the speed limit laws?

    Whether the “child” filter is opt-in or opt-out assuming that if you opt-out is the same as not opting in (using the opt-in method), I don’t see the issue myself as to whether its opt-in or not.

    I also don’t think the argument you can’t stop all the bad things so don’t do anything is a good argument. We will never stop all the drugs entering Australia but we should try to stop as much as we can!

    Also I personally think its good that they are going to trail it before implementing it as long as they take notice of the results. If the speed is going to be totally killed, then they will see this through the trails and be able to either say we tried and it didn’t work or try another system.


  2. Molly

    Conroy has changed his story and clarified his policy (on the run like any good inexperienced Minister), it’s now a mandatory filter then an “optional” one, whatever that means.

    I have no issue with Tier one (the mandatory filter), the illegal stuff. It’s tier two and the “inappropriate content”. Or the use of a black list that we don’t get to find out what is on it. Hence no appeal!

    Conroy doesn’t have peoples interest at heart, unless you are part of the christian right wing political cliche that seems to have a lot of power in this country.

  3. Again, My understanding of “inapropriate content” is already being made by the censorship/ratings board. That is (from a reading of the porposal a while ago) what I understand will be used. If it is rate 18+ (possibly 15+, don’t remember) then you will have to opt-out of the filter to see it. I don’t see the issue in this (unless you have an issue with the rating system at all (which is fair enough) and if you do, argue against the rating system not it being brought to the web.

    Yes there is something romantic about the Wild West Web, but if the government aren’t will to police it or try and police it (even if they fail) then they should remove ratings from all forms of media.


  4. Yes the local censorship boards will have a say on the content. But with 100,000’s of sites that is going to be hard. This is not like a list of traditional media. Which the boards are stretched with as it is. No the only way to do it is use a keyword automated filter as I mentioned. The level the filter is set at has not been discussed (which is a worry as well). It could be “G” rating.

    Frankly the use of the old style media rating is the wrong way to go. For example do you ban a bookshop for selling a video that is banned in this country. Note you can’t ban a page on a site (technically very difficult).

    Interesting, Why do we NEED the govt to police the Web, can’t we be trusted. Aren’t we adult enough. Or does Nanny have to look after us.

  5. For the same reason that we need the government to censore video, books, magazines, papers, etc.

    The book store is an intesesting question. In current non-internet world, if the book store had to import the book and it was banned from being imported the answer would be yes, it would be banned (Philip whats-his-face has had his book/s banned and stopped from being imported). You bring this to the porposed filtering system and you would say if the site is over seas you can’t ban it from overseas people but you can (in theory at least) say that you want it banned here.

    Yes, there are a many problems with banning (the reason I will be one of the first to opt-out of the optional filter when/if it comes in) but if they believe it is the right thing then they have to investigate it as they or be hypercrits.

  6. So what happens on the internet if NSW ban one site, WA, VIC and SA don’t that’s also going to be a problem. State Govt Ministers also have the power to add to the list and censor. And yes this has happened in the book industry.

    Say the online bookstore is Borders, it doesn’t get banned, but a local bookseller (hosting overseas) does. Is that fair. No. Can they Appeal. It seems not as it is hosted overseas.

  7. Q1) people in NSW don’t see the site and the others do. Simple.

    Q2) Borders can’t import illegal books the same as everyone else. I am not sure your point on this?

  8. The internet gateway routing network is NOT state based.

    Borders can display and preview the illegal book, the little guy can’t. Banning internet trailers for movies banned here. That’s another hard one.

  9. My understanding is the banning is going to be done at the ISP level. If your ISP is in NSW and its banned in NSW, you won’t get it.

    Sorry, I am lost with the borders example still. Are we still talking off-line banning as it would be for a book today? Or are you talking about online webpages now?

    If its the latter, it wouldn’t matter where they were or where they would be hosted (other then if the site was Australain Based they might be asked to remove the content as the Government/Law enforcement has some control over them) as the blocking is done at the ISP level.


  10. Borders example has always been talking about the online content. They have no control if the site is hosted outside of Australia. A take down can’t be issued if the site is outside Australia. Well it can be issued, But hard to enforce.

    That brings up another point why should the ISP be the gatekeeper.

    ISPs are not State based anymore. I use a mobile ISP that feeds IP addresses from Sydney, but I’m in Perth. Boundaries on the web are meaningless and the ideas of the 1990’s.

  11. As I said, didn’t see where you were going with Borders as I didn’t see the context and wasn’t sure if you were refering to my Book import analogy.

    Thats right, they can’t force them to take it down but they can (in theory) block it at the ISP level. Back to the book analogy, you can’t ban a New York writer writing a book on How to kill yourself (i.e. the Site) but if it is Banned in Australia, you can stop it at customs (i.e. ISP). Can you get around that? Yeah, probably but it doesn’t mean we should just throw the doors open.

    Why should ISP’s be the gatekeepers? Good question. Why should Newsagence be the Gatekeepers of 18+ magazines? Why should the Pubs/Bottle Shops be the Gatekeepers of Alcohol sales. Because thats the law and they want to be in that business. If the internet filter becomes law, it will be there choice if they want to continue to be in business or just shut up shop.

    Yeah, but if you do a trace route (tracert), I am almost willing to bet you could see that there is a local point of presence some where in the system. Computers are pretty smart things, I am sure the ISPs can work it out if there existence depended on it.

  12. The bookshop has 10,000 books, you ban the site because they have 1 book you don’t like. This is not like banning a book!

    It’s NOT the Law YET! Why should we or the ISP’s roll over like good little sheep to appease the Neo Christian Right of the Labor Party that are driving this debate.

    LOL – routing network self heals, following and tracking the entire internet in Australia is not possible. It works for a simple model not on mass.

Comments are now closed, move along, nothing to see here.