Conroy's filtering can't fix Web 2.0 demons

Conroy's filtering can't fix Web 2.0 demons

Summary: Web 2.0 services pose the biggest risk to Australian kids -- and current filtering technologies aren't up to the job of protecting them, according to a report released yesterday.

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Web 2.0 services pose the biggest risk to Australian kids -- and current filtering technologies aren't up to the job of protecting them, according to a report released yesterday.

"Risks to Australian youth are primarily the risks that are associated with Web 2.0 services -- potential contact by sexual predators, cyber-bullying by peers and misuse of personal information," the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) report said.

Despite the popularity of IM and chat services, current technology is not yet adequate to filter their content, the document said: "Filters are yet to develop sufficiently to adequately address real time online communications."

Parental monitoring software, which can record IM conversations or screenshots of user activity can be useful according to the report: "Parental control software enables parents to monitor their children's use of IM and chat services and can alert them to particular risks."

In the future, the report forecasts that near real-time filtering of content or interpersonal communications such as online gaming and chat will be developed.

With more complicated filtering, however, there is the risk of Internet performance reduction.

"Solutions that have been deployed in other countries to filter and block illegal content using index filtering cause no more than a small reduction in the performance of the network in which they are installed. However filtering and blocking solutions that must manage and process much larger indexes or undertake complex analysis of content or both inevitably create a more significant drain on processing resources," the document said.

For ISPs implementing filtering and blocking solutions, the size of the task is related to the number of subscribers using the filter, according to the report. "Without substantially augmenting the processing capability of its existing hardware an appreciable reduction in network performance is inevitable," it said.

Younger children can, however, benefit from simple white list filters -- filters which only allow access to a list of safe sites -- according to the report.

"Filters may be particularly advantageous in controlling the Internet access of very young children who lack the skills or understanding to make decisions about the kinds of content that may be appropriate for them," the report said.

Topics: Browser, Broadband, Government AU, Telcos, Enterprise 2.0

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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4 comments
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  • Something is fishy...

    AIM or MSN is not a Web 2.0 service! IM clients are simple applications that have been around for many years, maybe even approaching a decade now for some of the popular ones. Chat rooms such such as those found on IRC are also far from Web 2.0. IRC has probably been around since a few years after the internet became mainstream.

    Web 2.0 is website services, in terms of RSS feeds to sync your site with news coming from another, it's AJAX to have your website interact with a database or do other tasks without the page having to refresh. Basically, it's a change in the web development paradigm, where websites are taking over jobs that software applications used to have. Web 2.0 certainly does not encompass IM clients.

    Maybe if the people in charge learn the difference they would be able to spend their money more effectively to be able to filter out content instead of throwing around buzzwords and making themselves look like total fools.
    anonymous
  • RE: Something is fishy

    I cannot agree more, next we will be told they are putting web 2.0 filters on Telnet. Where are their technical advisors?
    anonymous
  • ISP Filter

    Have always said ISP side filter would be useless, and the same system can be replicated using a dedicated gateway box anyway.

    What the children need is education and reasons to avoid 'offensive' material. If you can't educate your child, then put your own filter on and stop wasting the the publics money.
    anonymous
  • Please tell me you're joking. ACMA is as clueless as Conroy!

    There have been and still are products which actively filter content being viewed and entered on all applications - web browsers included (there's that Web 2.0 garbage excuse sorted out).

    Have you seen MaxProtect? http://www.max.com/site/maxprotect.shtml this product not only filters and actively monitors the PC, but can even take photographs of the screen when offending content is viewed and store that photo on a secure website for the administrator to review!

    This system has been available since 2004 and is already in use in schools in the USA and I just cannot get my head around these feeble excuses from lazy mediocre consultants supporting an (ex) lazy mediocre senator. For $85 million dollars, Max would have happily provided free licenses to every parent in Australia!

    Even if they had a 10% response rate to that offer, its better than the 2% uptake of the Australian filter solution which the Conroy drones created.

    What I cannot understand is that it will cost all taxpayers less to shift the burden of content filtration to the end-points which require them (end users with children) as opposed to inflicting this on ISPs . The irony is that then parents have control over how they bring up their children (which is of course the crux of the problem with this whole issue).

    Would it not make sense to implement a half decent content filtration system which is updated and managed over the internet - like MaxProtect - and operates across every application on the PC?

    Now think about this for a second... if the government has successfully managed to enforce immunization in children by reducing tax and welfare benefits for non-compliant parents, does it not follow that they could do the same with content filtration?

    It would have to cost less and be simpler to implement overall than a top-down approach which reduces everyone's civil liberties and places impossible burdens on private sector companies (and costs all Australians twice - once for ongoing implementation and again for the ongoing managing of compliance!)
    anonymous