Conroy calls for filter pilot volunteers

Conroy calls for filter pilot volunteers

Summary: The federal government yesterday called for expressions of interest from internet service providers to conduct a live pilot of the controversial internet content filtering pilot it is planning.


The federal government yesterday called for expressions of interest from internet service providers to conduct a live pilot of the controversial internet content filtering pilot it is planning.


With the pilot hoped to be commenced by 24 December 2008, the expressions of interest (EoI) document has been peppered with what appear to be small enticements for ISPs to join the trial.

The government has promised to promote ISPs' role in the pilot with intent to "strengthen their brand image with the community". The terms of the agreement have also been kept loose: the government wants to start the six week live pilot with ISPs before Christmas, however ISPs will be able to start later if they want, presumably at least six weeks prior to the end of June 2009.

Limited funding for ISPs is also available, according to the EoI, to help reduce the cost of purchasing and installing content filtering equipment, however if too many ISPs register interest the government has planned to ration funding under an open tender process.

There is also the prospect of financial rewards. To this end, the pilot will be split into two streams: those ISPs that filter the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) blacklist; and those that also provide filtering of non web based applications such as peer-to-peer networks, which are not covered by ACMA's blacklist. The latter group has been urged to charge customers for premium filtering.

Exactly what ISPs will be charging for is questionable however. The initial tests results released in July revealed that filtering technologies could not identify illegal content over peer to peer networks, only block the entire network. ACMA also held earlier reservations about the technologies' capabilities on this front.

If recent reactions to mandatory ISP filtering by the heads of Internode, Telstra's BigPond and iiNet are anything to go by, the government is likely to have difficulties finding ISPs willing to partake in the pilot.

In interviews over the past few months, Simon Hackett, managing director of Adelaide-based ISP Internode has said that filtering by ISPs was "loony" because it was expensive, performance-degrading and annoying. Justin Milne, group managing director for Telstra BigPond, has said that forcing ISPs into a 'gatekeeping' role would have significant legal implications — and is a role that police should do, not ISPs.

Michael Malone, iiNet CEO, has questioned the ethical position of the Australian Government attempting to censor the internet like the Chinese Government.

The closing date for submissions to participate in the pilot is 8 December 2008.

Topics: Broadband, Censorship, Government AU, Security, Telcos, Telstra, NBN

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • internet filter is a joke

    I actually supported Conroy (mostly based upon how crap his predecessor was) until I read about this "net filter" garbage. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how the internet actually works, and the idea is dodgy at best, and at worst its going to completely stuff internet access around the country.

    Perhaps conroy should concentrate more on actual worthwhile policies and making sure that we get a successful NBN rollout rather than trying to censure an uncensurable medium.
  • Favourite quote

    My favourite ZDnet quote of late is (to paraphrase) that Conroy makes Coonan look intelligent.
  • Pay for less

    "The latter group has been urged to charge customers for premium filtering."
    So what they're saying here is that they are urging ISPs to charge customers for a service that has limited functionality. Anyone would be nuts to pay for a service that applies such filtering.
  • open tender process

    "however if too many ISPs register interest the government has planned to ration funding under an open tender process."

    I don't think they'll have much to worry about on that particular front....
  • Strengthening the brand

    "The government has promised to promote ISPs' role in the pilot with intent to "strengthen their brand image with the community". "

    If I were an ISP stupid enough to join this trial, the last thing I would want is to advertise the fact. All it would do is encourage my customers to leave for the unfiltered ISPs. The best way the government could "strengthen the brand" of an ISP participating in the trial is to declare the identity of the ISP a state secret.
  • Negative Press

    Any ISP associated with this faces the risk of massively negative press given the current feelings in the industry surrounding this.

    Service will be degraded, legitimate sites will be blocked and outages and or problems will occur (as with the installation of any new inline equipment).

    We all know that this will never ever be a success!

    The only question is how much tax payers money will be wasted by Conroy's sheer ignorance about the technology?

    The last gov't spent 86 million on software that is not only flawed, It is used by relatively few people, and provides functionality that was practically avaliable free of charge already.

    Let's take an annalogy - Murder is illegal.
    It cannot be prevented but you minimise the risks for example by banning the carrying of knives without a good reason.

    What the government is proposing here is a blanket ban on knives full stop. If you ban knives, it's reasonable to assume that your next step would be to ban Scissors, razors, glass, knitting needles, Chisels, hammers etc etc etc ad infinitum.

    Once you remove every possible sharp/heavy item from circulation does murder cease? - no you just increase the amount of murder by strangulation.

    Should child porn be illegal? - Yes.
    Can the government stop it with current technology? - Not in the slightest.
    Can they spend trillions trying? Yes.
  • Censorship / Morals / Whose?

    When did Australia become a communist country?

    Why does Senator Conroy believe that his moral judgement is better than mine?

    What does he determine as Innapropriate Content?


    What about violence, prejudice, racism?

    While he is at it he should ban anything that mentions stealing, killing.

    Of course that means the Bible and All references to it should obviously be banned.

    What the senator doesn't realise is that over the past 12 months, most sites have been encrypting traffic using SSL. Which means the net filters won't know whats traveling through.

    I can think of much better ways to spend the countries money than trying to stop a tsunami with a bucket.
  • Better to filter...

    ... government idiocy, then asinine ideas like this one would never see the light of day. :-)
  • Isp filtering trials

    Conroy, you just don,t get it, do you ? Nobody wants your damn Isp filtering , least of all the Isps. Isps should just refuse to participate . He can,t close them all down.Stop this idiocy, while you can !
  • Re

    Understand the difference between this legislation and communism before making comments like that. Communism is economic. This has police/nanny state all over it. This is political
  • isp net filtering

    IF Conroy enforces this stupid proposed law on to all Australian ISP's. HE and the LABOR GOV. will HAVE ALL of the AUSTRALIAN NET Users SUPPORTING the OPPOSITION in DEFEATING the CURRENT GOV.The Very Large NUMBER of Australian VOTERS who use the net will NOT tolerate some Religious FANATIC in GOV. SLOWING DOWN the NETWORK download SPEED ONLY to further(INSTALL) HIS WARPED view of AUSTRALIAN MORALITY ON THE large MAJORITY of AUSTRALIAN's WHO DO NOT BELIEVE(BELONG) to CONROY's WARPED RELIGION. LOOKS like the GREENS and Liberals WIll WIN all the SEATS at the NEXT FEDeral ELECTION.
  • Crazy

    I should mention before I start I am a parent, I am in IT and I was a pretty big labor supporter.
    There is no way I could support this. I have connected to the internet in China and it is horribly slow and you roll a dice every time you go to a site, even sites that weren't blocked minutes ago maybe blocked now, I once saw several legitimate sites, heck even top level domains blocked. If China can't successfully do it with their much bigger budget and control, how will we do it.
    I would rather my children see the entire underbelly of the internet than be blocked from getting to one legitimate and thought provoking site. I would also rather the internet stay free and chaotic than become slow and "safe".
    Of course there are ways around this that will take even a child seconds to find, web based proxies, open proxies, TOR, JAP, all are free and easy to use.
    I have sent Conroy and his shadow minister an email, and a written letter is on its way. Only his shadow minister replied with a canned response. Unfortunately saying this will change the next election is untrue, unfortunately an errosion of liberties is usually forgotten and once this is in it will never leave us.
    To me this kind of thing is a deal breaker. The internet is a big part of my life, I work with it, I play with it, it is my hobby, my career. It would be like me telling Conroy, no more written text for you, no more communication of any kind.
    I hope that this does not pass as I have no idea what I would do.
  • Prove to disprove

    An interesting development late yesterday, iiNet decided to play ball and trial this net filter.

    In a simple paraphrase, iiNet will trial this to give the government hard numbers and show that this is a technology that should not be put into effect.


    We have an idiot in charge of a major portfolio. He doesn't have a clue!
    Having been in the IT/Computer industry for 40 years, I can say, unequivocally,

  • Consutative?

    Any competent and honest communications minister would never have allowed this to go so far. What waste of our taxes.
  • Flawed Plan

    The suppression of free speech is why parallels to communism were made. Over Government of the people and the power to keep the truth from the mass population should have us all quite worried