Filter Me Please Government, It's Why We Voted For You

12 July, 2011 07:02AM ยท 3 minute read

Earlier this month the government imposed (but sorta optional) an internet filter that was applied by Telstra. Optus will follow suit shortly by applying the same filter. The filter itself is designed to stop access to websites with child pornography. The implementor and general champion of this cause is Senator Stephen Conroy, with the rather long-winded title of Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (MBCDE for short). Let me start by saying it’s sounds like an honourable intention. I have young children and nothing sickens me more than child pornography. The problem is that I also understand how the “black market” trades on the internet and sadly it is not through web pages. Web Pages can be easily shut down through court orders to ISPs, physically removing server hardware, denial of service attacks and so on and this makes them a poor way to trade in illegal materials. The most favoured methods include torrents (private ones) and individually encrypted emails. Neither of these methods can be blocked by any simple filter. Now to the second point - the filter itself is just a list of Interpol provided illegal websites. These websites are manually updated and the only way to prevent access is via a proxy, enforced by Telstra and Optus. These proxies can be bypassed as Telstra and Optus do not have control of your computer. Services exist to allow VPN Tunnels or Web Based Proxies that allow a computer to go directly to an exit point on the internet that is beyond the approval filtering proxy at Telstra or Optus. One method is for Telstra and Optus to then begin blocking access to the popular ones, however there are many ways to set up such servers around the world privately that the government will have a lot of trouble detecting. So if the filter can be bypassed pretty easily, only two (albeit two of the largest) ISPs are implementing the filter, why do it? Did the Australian people vote for this? The general consensus is probably not. Who are we protecting by doing this? Considering the alternative methods of trading illegal material all we are protecting are those who may accidentally happen across this information. Despite all of the issues the simplest reason to implement this filter is to save face. The government said they would do it and poured millions of dollars into the filter, so now it must be used. The reality is that Australia has long been a country with many resourceful people who can bypass anything the government throws at them. Unless the government thinks it can use strong arm internet filtering tactics like China and introduce severe jail terms and real-world policing for those people bypassing their filters, the end result will be unavoidable. This filter will fail.