Conroy filter gag sparks sysadmin rage

Conroy filter gag sparks sysadmin rage

Summary: An Australian systems administrators' professional group has criticised Communications Minister Stephen Conroy for alleged attempts by his office to silence a vocal network engineer expressing an opinion about the planned government internet filtering scheme.


An Australian systems administrators' professional group has criticised Communications Minister Stephen Conroy for alleged attempts by his office to silence a vocal network engineer expressing an opinion about the planned government internet filtering scheme.

IT professionals' advocacy group SAGE-AU, which represents 1,000 IT professionals, has called for more public debate about the government's ISP filtering plans for Australia. The group has responded to a report in Fairfax papers that a policy advisor to Senator Conroy had contacted the Internet Industry Association's CEO Peter Coroneos for assistance in controlling the views of an employee of one of its members, ISP Internode.

"SAGE-AU calls upon the office of the communications minister to respect Mr Newton's professionalism and independence," the group's president Donna Ashelford said in a statement today.

Internode network engineer Mark Newton has publicly criticised the government's mandatory ISP filtering plans on the grounds that ISPs would face major network redesigns to meet requirements, increased costs and security threats to Australian internet users.

Newton first spoke out about his concerns at the release of the Australian Communications and Media Authority's first round of ISP level filtering test results in August.

ACMA's tests highlighted reductions in the impact filtering technologies would have on network performance, but also revealed serious shortcomings such as an inability to filter content shared over peer-to-peer networks; networks could be blocked but not scanned and filtered for pornographic content.

According to Newton, peer-to-peer communications made up between 30 to 55 per cent of an ISP's traffic.

ISPs potentially face a large cost if mandatory filtering is introduced. The network engineer has estimated that the smallest ISPs — with around 2 per cent market share — would face a cost in excess of $1 million to meet the government's "clean feed" requirements — a figure that would more than double to build in redundancy and ongoing licence fees.

The IIA has been a long-standing opponent of mandatory ISP filtering in Australia. Its stance on the issue since 2000 has been for ISPs to provide customers with filters or an optional filtered service, not to filter the entire network, according to CEO Peter Coroneos.

"Only the most repressive regimes in the world have attempted such an approach," the IIA said in its 2006 statement regarding mandatory ISP filtering.

It is understood that Internode and IIA have discussed the issue. Neither organisation has released a public statement on the matter, however, neither have attempted to silence Newton.

"Unlike Senator Conroy, my employer appears to have understood that whether or not one agrees with my positions, having the discussion is important," Newton told

"Senator Conroy, as Mr Rudd's delegate, is running around trying to silence dissenting members of the public, and labelling people who disagree with him as supporters of child pornography," he added. Conroy's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Topics: Government AU, Censorship, Telcos

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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  • Disgusting

    I thought we lived in a democracy. So much for that. The Australian government has been slowly eroding personal liberties for years and this is pretty much the icing on the cake.
  • fail ?

    what is stopping users from opening VPN connections to US or Europe and push their data through a VPN?

    I think someone should give Conroy a crash course in IT/Networking before our tax money go to waste
  • Australian Internet Filter

    Sorry Mr. Conroy, but we live in an age where people do have a voice, attempts to silence that voice will only be met with further publication of the issue.

    Mark Newton's comments are well informed and represent the feelings of many consumers.

    This does need to be an openly discussed issue, not just with ISPs, but the general public.

    The AIF is now attracting mass media coverage, this morning the issue was discussed on Channel 9. There's no hiding it, the filter is unworkable and ultimately won't achieve it's said purpose.
  • Mark Newton's commentary is is own - not that of Internode

    It should be noted that Mark Newton's commentary about the proposed filter are those of his own - as Mr Constituent.

    The article infers that Mark Newton was talking on behalf of Internode - that is not correct.

    Conroy's office took the view that Mark's commentary needed to be reigned in by instigating talks with Mark's affiliations and also with Mark's Internode employer in an effort to silence critics of the filter!

    And, for the record, Mark is an inspirational voice in the debate that is the folly of this Conroy Internet Filter (I have supported Mark's commentary with my own knowledge!).
  • Basic Democratic Principle

    It is offensive to equate a disagreement of the government line as support for child pornography; and equally such a facile argument brings into sharp relief the total lack of knowledge of those in government making these decisions and the political nature of the "be seen to be doing something good" approach to the child pornography issue. It is particularly worrying that the government proposes an unprecedented censorship scheme that purports to "protect us" from content (that they decide) on the internet on the one hand, and try and gag debate in such an unscrupulous manner on the other. What on earth will they try and slide under the carpet if this awful piece of legislation gets up? And what on earth will happen if the noisy minorities get their hands on it?

    Transparency of government is the defense from such foolishness. It's a pity that our rights are not given the same regard as some hair brained scheme concocted by people who should know better.
  • Chairman Rudd and the Great Firewall of Australia

    As it is known at the moment Clean feed (ISP Level Filtering) is now going to be compulsory in one form or an other. Unknown ISPs are testing it without letting their customers know. The government is going remove your right to access anything that it does not like, regardless if its offensive, distasteful or not. This now includes porn if the Family First party has its way. Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA) stated customers should contact their ISPs and let them know your view on the matter.

    It is a safe bet that 99% of customers of any ISP who are fully informed about what clean feed means and the repercussions of it will be totally against this draconian step buy the government to control what we decide do with the net and in the process actually totally screw the internet as well.

    60%+ of what is done on the net is by 2p2 (file sharing) in Australia. Clean feed will not stop one single packet of it being downloaded and will only increase it. You security is at threat as well. Encrypted sites such as your online shopping or banking will be effected by this as the government does not want anyone using anything more then 48 bit encryption protocols which is very easily hacked

    If you like playing multiplayer games then forget about as latency is going to be a huge factor as well

    Oh yer ...we join a very exclusive club in the world where the main members are Iran and China
  • Children be damned! We have votes to get, people! - MARKED AS SPAM BY AKISMET

    I'd like to point out a post on the Whirlpool forum that brings this filter's true purpose into the public arena:

    The very people it is meant to target, i.e. the pedo's, DO NOT currently use systems of transmission that would be affected by this proposed filter! That is the stupidity of the debate from Conroy's POV!

    The Child Porn debate is a bullshit rally to arms by a minister Government that needs a vote from a fundamentalist in order to push through other items on the agenda � no more, no less!

    I challenge ANY person to provide a website that is available to the general public akin to as determined is available to the casual observer as depicted from Conroy's rhetoric!

    Such activities (Child Porn etc) have ALWAYS been engaged in at a level or two that DETERMINISTICALLY BYPASSES the current technology of the day � despite Conroy dismissing the bloody obvious evidence to the contrary!


    There is truth in this!
  • Conroy - Internet Filter

    Senator Conroy quips that people who don't agree with him support internet porn. Nice cheap throwaway line from a Senator! OK Mr Conroy where are the details of your Internet Filter?

    My chief concern is, who is going to decide what is inappropriate? You? Mr Rudd? Senator Fielding? The Tooth Fairy Perhaps? And what content are you going to block? Kiddie porn, yeah fine, but what about free speech, art that you might find offensive, advertising or perhaps websites with negative political views perhaps?

    Don't you understand that our internet is already the laughing stock of the developed world because of the poor average national speeds and punitive download limits forced on consumers by our Telco’s and ISP's.

    Why don't you forget about slowing our net up and do what we are paying you to do, i.e. Improving the internet in Australia.

    PS> in the interest of political fairness - I don't think the previous communications had her head round the real issues either.

    Pull your heads in Canberra and give yourselves an uppercut!
  • Employment Opportunity???

    I'd like the job of checking each site and clasifying it / or declasifying it.

    I reckon - even with the shrinkwrapped filter sets that the Govt will no doubt buy from somewhere , i'd still have enough work for a lot of people.
  • Time For Conroy to Resign!

    As a Senior Security Engineer with a Large ISP, I can tell you What we already know about filters of this type.:

    1. They are very costly.
    2. They Increase latency.
    3. They can not stop people doing bad things.
    4. There will always be an issue of contention around what is acceptable and what is not.

    The minister has already taken steps to silence dissent in a so called democracy, so who can say that this filter will not be employed in the same manner?

    We hear the same argument that has been used in America to erode basic human rights accumulated over centuries.

    "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about"

    Look at how much taxpayers money the last Govenrment spent on internet filtering, and how many tax payers took them up on it, The results are staggering
  • filter won't work

    All this talk about blocking illegal content - too bad this proposed filter will only inspect HTTP traffic. Good news for all the pedophiles who download their stuff via FTP, P2P or DCC, bad news to the honest citizens who have to suffer with slower speeds (like Internet connection speeds aren't already slow enough already).
  • Idiocy is optional

    I guess it shows how much our parlimentary system is worth.
    Ministers are responsible for porfolios in which they have no idea. I doubt Senator Conroy could setup a home network, yet he gets to decide how the whole system should work!!

    Decisions are made politicaly, not technically.

    Keeping certain groups happy and vested interests donating to your coffers is the main game.
  • Filtering should be done at HOME

    ISP Filtering will not stop child pornography, and parents should be responsible enough to filter what thei kids see as well. ISPs should be easily able to provide some basic software that can do this. Parents should be able to easily monitor and maintain a 'whitelist' for their kids.

    If anything the government should be looking to help parents protect their children, and monitor and detect child pornography rings. Driving it underground or forcing it to become encyrpted is only going to make it harder for the Federal Police to do their job.
  • Good comments, but...

    Good comments, Shaun, especially about group membership.

    I'm sorry, but I have to ask, is 2p2 file sharing anything like P2P file sharing? :)


    Senator Conroy & his bureaucrats are living up to the old adage:


    Who gave them a mandate to censor my Internet service ?

    I didn't!!
    If this legislation is ever passed, I'll switch on TOR & to hell with their draconian law.
  • What a crock!

    It really shows what type of person Conroy is.
    Trying to shut the people up who oppose of the idea of "clean feed" is only going to backlash on you so hard your ears would spin. And labelling people as supporters of child pornography who don't agree with you just slashes your credibility even steeper in the toilet. Its patetic, disgraceful and just down right madness with power. I see a masive expensive failure of a project on your part and its on your head when it does fail. Expect a few truck loads of I told you so letters from the people who don't agree with the "Clean Feed" crap because you would have to do a Ringo Star. Because the fans has as much contempt to Ringo as to your goodself Conroy.
  • So who disagrees with conroy

    gets labelled "people who disagree with him as supporters of child pornography,"

    What a slanderous perk you just spilled out Mr Conroy gee that is going to win you more votes!!!!.
  • Conroy - Internet Filter

    Well written ... couldn't have said it better myself
  • Compulsary Filtering will ENABLE CHILD ABUSE

    I'm quoting a succinct summary of the issues from Mark (

    The arguments against it are clear:
    * there's no problem to solve because actual illegal material on the Internet is so rare that nobody ever finds it;
    * even if there was a problem to solve, there's no public demand to solve it;
    * even if there was a public demand to solve it, none of the proposed solutions will be effective;
    * even if they were effective, they'll slow down Internet access and reduce Internet reliability;
    * even if the proposed solutions had perfect performance and reliability, none of them are affordable;
    * even if they were affordable, they'll be implemented terribly by the same class of bureaucrats that decided Haneef was a terrorist and Hanson was a pornographer, and will consequently be overbroad and subject to political manipulation;
    * even if they were implemented perfectly, the blacklist will leak, be published on the Internet, fall into the hands of nefarious individuals, and consequently ENABLE CHILD ABUSE; and
    * there's no possibility that the blacklist won't leak. It might take a month, a year, five years, ten years, or 2 hours. But it will leak. Pressing it into service will be like setting a ticking time bomb...
  • "Laughing stock"

    Australia's internet is already the laughing stock of the world. Over inflated data transfer costs and internet slower than some other less developed countries. The government turning a blind eye to Telstra's monopoly over the industry while they create "Future Funds" for our aging pensioners with Telstra shares, because apparently the elderly have more to offer this country than a standing in the global internet economy.

    I run an internet business, and the affects of this new filter legistlation would eventually shut my business down.

    The government should just forcibly close every internet business and ISP in Australia, buy back telstra and then waste billions of dollars mismanaging it. It would save me the heartache and the pain and I can go join dole cue now. At least I wont have to wait for the local Internet economy and industry to die for the same outcome.

    Somebody tell our government to get a clue please.