Conroy explains his magic filter

Conroy explains his magic filter

Summary: In today's Twisted Wire, we put the screws on Communications Minister Stephen Conroy about his controversial internet filter policy.


In today's Twisted Wire, we put the screws on Communications Minister Stephen Conroy about his controversial internet filter policy.

Among other things, Conroy says the filter was always intended to stop people inadvertently encountering internet nasties, and that there was never an intention to use the Australian Communication and Media Authority's full blacklist.

That sensitive list, Conroy says, will only ever have a few thousand sites on it, updated regularly, and the government is open to discussion about how it will be implemented.

Conroy is copping a lot of flak for the policy but is intent on it as one of a range of approaches to try and limit access to child pornography and other nasty material. For most of us it shouldn't matter, so why are people getting so hot under the collar about it?

Well, there are three reasons. The first is the question of speed. If we believe the trials, both the Enex TestLab trial and a separate one conducted by Telstra, and if we're only talking about blocking a few thousand URLs then there will be a negligible impact on the performance of the internet. No big deal!

The second reason is the fear of precisely what it is we are blocking. Professor Catherine Lumby from the University of NSW joins the discussion, suggesting if the filter is to proceed we need to look at how we classify material. For more, read the report she co-authored, Untangling the Net: the scope of content caught by mandatory internet filtering.

The third reason is "everything else". As Peter Corenous, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association explains, there could be many inadvertent issues that need to be examined. The cost burden of applying the filter could be one of them, particularly for smaller ISPs.

Ravi Bhatia, CEO of Primus, is another industry supporter. I ask him if he can see any problems with the approach, or is Senator Conroy right to push ahead regardless of the vocal opposition from the anti-censorship brigade.

What do you think? Whatever your views on the subject, don't let it ruin your Christmas! And yes, we'll squeeze in one more Twisted Wire before then. You can also read the consultation paper on measures to increase accountability and transparency for Refused Classification material.

Topics: Censorship, Government AU, Tech Industry


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Is it any wonder...

    that he's copping flak? If this is "one of a range of approaches to try and limit access to child pornography and other nasty material. ", it's time to look at something else.

    His proposal simply - DOESN'T WORK - in this respect. It is a complete waste of public money and as a "side effect" it just happens to allow the government to control access to information.

    How many times does this have to be pointed out to this luddite?
  • Your right Steve it isn't a silver bullet.

    It's a suppository.
  • The biggie...

    Scope creep. Successive governments will expand the scope of the filter there is absolutely nothing to prevent them from doing so.

    The filter as it stands to be implemented at present, will be used to block politically contreversial subjects and content (euthinasia, and abortion awareness sites) if this does not qualify as a restriction of political freedom I don't know what does.

    Most importantly of all, it won't work. Its a colossal waste of tax payer money that should be spent on Australia's piss-poor hi-tech crime units. The filter wont prevent kids from being abused, it wont help those that have already been abused and wont assist in the capture of those who sponsor or distribute it. It's a complete and utter failure as a policy.
  • Testing Censorship

    Let's see if becomes blocked.
  • I love how...

    Conroy talks about "mis-information" as one of the main reasons why so many people are against the filter. Um, Conroy is the leader of mis-information given the way he changes his tune to suit his own argument/agenda.

    A 10% drop in speed may not seem like much to him but our "broadband" is already laughable compared to other developed countries. A 10% drop is still a 10% too much when our speeds are already relatively slow.

    There are so many flaws in this trial. As already pointed out, the testing was never carried out on speeds above 8Mbs. The effect of the filter above that is unknown, which is of great concern given the goverments pledge for the NBN with a speed of 100Mbs.

    How many customers took part in the trial? How can these results be extrapolated to a much larger sample size and a larger load on the filter?

    Conroy constantly talks about other countries having implemented their own filters. How many countries have made it mandatory?

    At the end of the day, the filter will simply not work. People will be able to by-pass the filter with ease. What a complete waste of tax payers money.
  • Filter anything to do with Catholics

    Can we please have every reference to word "God" or "Catholic" and replace it the word pedophile.
    I would like to see the whole bible blocked as I find its existence very offensive. Why don't they get a Christian Ubuntu as it has all the filiters already in it.
    They are probably all too stupid to know how to use it.
    The internet is not like TV or radio.
  • Extra latency no big deal???

    Dear Phil Dobbie,

    Are you stating that extra latency is no big deal? Try adding extra latency to your packets that carry voip, gaming or trading orders.

    Given the technically questionable results of the Enex tests, I think the latency will be far worse than what they've reported.
  • Home Filter

    It's up to parents to watch their kids. Parents should have computers in a main area of the house. They can easily lock it down and those who try to circumvent the software would circumvent Conroy's clean feed anyway. There's no reason to have a national filtering scheme. It's becoming too much of a police state.
  • bah

    You should have interrupted when Conroy made 1 proposition instead of rambling on for 5minutes then trying to argue against all the points.
  • Parental scrutiny is the only option.

    My nephew had a computer relatively unsupervised in his bedroom. As a teenager he had downloaded topless images of Amanda Tapping from "Stargate SG-1" and similar. Knowing full well that a teenager is able to access this sort of information faster than I can track it, I allowed this on the condition that if I ever found anything more "controversial" his hard-drive would be remotely wiped without warning.

    Interestingly, the only times we ever had virus trouble on his machine were:
    - his birthday, when a couple of friends tried accessing more dangerous material
    - one of his sisters visiting and playing a SIMS style game that looked safe enough, until you complete the game, and the avatars then copulate on screen!

    At no time did an audit of the machine reveal that my nephew had been responsible for visiting RC type sites, or has playing "Halo" online suddenly been forbidden?

    I am of the strong opinion that the wowsers behind this scheme are those same kids who used to get busted at school for passing around "dirty magazines".
  • Filter.

    We're OUTRAGED by this filter proposal.

    Did you know that some of the TOP 25 web sites used by Australians will be blocked when the filters in place, sites even more popular than the Australian portal to Google.

    This is such a bad plan, if it becomes law, Labor will lose my vote forever.
  • sensorship

    a real worry when the Govt gets control on what we read, who knows what is done with this data
  • It's a waste of time money and WILL hinder investigations of online crime

    I as someone with NO criminal intent will be buy a VPN connection in a 'safe' country and be doing all my surfing from there! So if I'm going to do it do you think the information will be easy enough on chat forums to find out for pedophiles? and other criminals? Labour needs to start listening to the IT industry before going off half cock and thinking they know all about all!
  • Ravi, are you serious?

    Ravi, where do you come to the conclusion that most Australian's want this? The previous Govt's downloadable personal filter was barely downloaded and used by anyone. In fact that's the reason why the current Govt removed it in the first place.

    Not sure if you've been reading any of the news on this (funny that they tried to sneak it through at Christmas time AGAIN), but the whole proposal is getting a smashing across anywhere that has comments. For your uneducated reference:
  • My problem with it? Conroy.

    Again Conroy is using non-technical terms to describe what will be blocked in an attempt to glaze over his real intentions.

    What are "Nasties" and who will be defining what is nasty? Bad words, naughty pictures, talk about abortion and euthanasia, anti Catholic websites?

    He just needs to come right out and say that sites like Red Tube will be completely blocked, then the public can decide for themselves if they want this censorship to invade their lives.
  • it all comes back to Conroy

    How the hell can someone who
    knows absolutely nothing about IT
    and the way the internet works
    make these decisions!
    its absurd??
    This filter will NOT stop anything
    except for really stupid people who
    wouldnt be on the net for dodgy reasons anyway
  • Wasted opportunity

    Conroy answers questions so rarely. What a shame he wasn't asked why he's blocking all of RC instead of just the illegal sub-categories within it. Also a pity he wasn't asked about why the trial was only testing speed impacts under 8mbs, which is about 1/12 of the expected speed under the NBN.
  • Conroy's NewSpeak

    The lead issue, the headline-grabbing first mention in most of Conroy's ramblings is that the filter will block pedophile sites.

    Pedophile sites are, quite rightly, illegal now and always have been. Where Conroy appears to show his ignorance (or venal desire for an eyecatching headline) is that pedophile sites are already blocked as a matter of policy by most ISPs, so they are not floating around the public domain at all. In other words, the Great Australian Rabbit-proof Firewall will make no difference here.

    So, Senator, your Plan B is? Resign?
  • Conroy admits his filter doesn't work.

    "Inteviewer: So it's not necessarily a secret list? You're open for discussion on that?
    Stephen Conroy: Ah... look the problem, the problem with, ah publishing the list. And this is, this is one that we've really struggled with, because this is a real conundrum. When ya publish a list of the names of books that are banned, ya don't provide the access to the content in the book. If you publish a list of URL addresses, you're providing access to the content. and that's, that's where the challenge is."

    Ummm, I'm sorry what? People only need the URL of the filtered website to access it? Then what the hell does your filter do?
  • Red Herring

    Thanks to the tag team of Conroy and Atkinson, I guess we won't even be able to read a _review_ of an RC game like Aliens Vs Predator or L4D2?

    I find it extremely distasteful that a government wants to filter my information through their criteria/mechanism and feel the whole "filter the filth" line they are using is a diversion to the real issue that, according to the government, Australian adults must be treated like children.