Telstra's Interpol filter goes live

Telstra's Interpol filter goes live

Summary: The nation's largest telco Telstra last night confirmed that it had started filtering its customers' internet traffic, preventing them from accessing a blacklist of sites containing child pornography as compiled by international policing agency Interpol.


The nation's largest telco Telstra last night confirmed that it had started filtering its customers' internet traffic, preventing them from accessing a blacklist of sites containing child pornography as compiled by international policing agency Interpol.

Telstra's filter is an implementation of a voluntary filtering framework developed by the internet service provider (ISP) industry's peak representative body, the Internet Industry Association (IIA). Publicly unveiled on Monday this week, the voluntary filter is expected to be adopted by most Australian ISPs this year.

Customers who visit one of the sites on Interpol's list will be greeted by an Interpol 'stop page' which explains that the content they have attempted to access is illegal, along with instructions on how they can challenge Interpol's ruling. Those who believe their website has been inadvertently blocked by Interpol are able to ask for a review via the agency's own website, or will be able to contact the Australian Federal Police, which Telstra has worked closely with on the filter's implementation.

The Interpol list is believed to have been in use for a number of years, with telcos such as BT, O2 and Virgin having blocked addresses on it for some time. For a site to get onto the list, law enforcement agencies in at least two separate jurisdictions have to validate the entry as being illegal and not just potentially offensive. In addition, the age of children depicted through content on the sites must be younger than 13 years of age, or perceived to be less than 13.

Under the IIA's scheme, ISPs who use the Interpol list to block access to child pornography would be doing so in accordance with "a legal request for assistance" under Australia's existing Telecommunications Act (section 313). Because of this, unlike the wider mandatory filtering scheme, the IIA believes that no new legislation will be required to implement the Interpol-focused framework.

The implementation of Telstra's filter follows a whirlwind of events since the telco first revealed it was considering using the list generated by Interpol.

Last Saturday, Telstra revealed it was close to achieving executive sign-off for its internal filtering proposal. Then on Monday, the IIA revealed Telstra's proposal was part of a wider industry framework under development. Since that time, Optus has also confirmed its support for the framework, although other ISPs such as iiNet and Internode have yet to commit to implementing the scheme.

The limited voluntary filtering initiative is a measure that ISPs and the Federal Government agreed to in mid-2010. The initiative was intended to operate while a review was carried out into the Refused Classification category of content, which the government's wider mandatory filter project is slated to block. The ISPs' filter will only block sites with child pornography instead of those with illegal content in general.

Telstra, Optus and Primus had initially agreed to carry out the voluntary filtering initiative, but Primus has since backed away from the proposal and is yet to make a decision on whether it will implement the IIA scheme.

The implementation of the more limited filter has not raised the same degree of public criticism that the government's more comprehensive internet filter has attracted since the policy was first unveiled back in late 2007. In addition, the IIA has sought to distance its own policy from the government's approach, and hopes the widespread implementation of the filter aimed solely at child pornography will take some heat out of the debate about the wider filter initiative.

However, not everyone believes the IIA's Interpol filter will be effective in meeting its aims. Digital rights lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia has panned the efficacy of the filter, describing it as "security theatre" that wouldn't actually make much difference to the ability of police to enforce the law.

Topics: Censorship, Telcos, Telstra

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  • So, Renai, I assume that as a professional Journalist you are not simply taking the ISPs at their word that a request from the AFP exists, and that you have seen a copy of the request from the AFP yourself.

    Perhaps you could publish a copy of the request for the rest of us to see, please?
  • LOL Womp. I think you would better raising you honesty or professionalism doubts with the IIA, it is their scheme and framework, instead of openly doubting Remai's veracity...

    Perhaps you could ask the IIA or Telstra for a copy of the request, or even the AFP or of Interpol, instead of taking a potshot at the messenger/reporter.
    • I thought one of the reasons for having Journalists was so that we wouldn't have to research everything ourselves. There seems little point to the whole zdnet website if everyone has to research everything themselves.

      The article doesn't say "alleged" or "claimed" AFP request.

      If I came to your door and asked to do things to your computer and said that the police had requested I do so, wouldn't you ask to see a copy of the request?
  • Hi womp,

    We will talk to the IIA.
  • What in the WORLD makes Telstra or the Federal Govt think that filtering what people see will STOP those who want to see it? People who know how to and those with a need who can use Google will find out how dead easy it is to get around such a filtering process. What is worse is that this will drive those they are chasing to those ends and make them all but impossible to find.

    Someone in the Federal Govt and Bigpond need to wake up to what I.T. is.
  • Why do we need to filter a blacklist?
    Sounds like a sneaky way to gain public acceptance of internet censorship.
    Those child porn sites should have been taken down & the offenders arrested, not used as an excuse to control our internet access.
  • Talked to the IIA, which directed us to the telcos, Womp. Now asking them.

    Watch this space.
  • So the AFP has confirmed it's been sending notices to some ISPs. Telstra, however, has given me this response when asked to see one:

    Telstra complies with mandatory regulatory and legislative requirements and is committed to working with national and international Law Enforcement agencies to disrupt the criminal distribution of child abuse and exploitation images. Unfortunately, we cannot make any further comment nor share supporting documentation with external parties related to this process.
    • The Australian is reporting that the AFP is only issuing notices to ISPs who REQUEST them.

      So if they do have an official request (probably dated the day after you requested to see one) it is because the ISP wanted an AFP request because they have chosen to CENSOR their customers.