Thursday

The Australian Internet Filter - Latest News

I've written about the Australian Internet filter a few times in this blog (Australian Censorship of the Internet ), mainly because as we only usually see this level of filtering happening in less democratic countries. It was always going to be interesting to see how the Australian Internet filter would developed and how it would be received by the Australian people.


This grand plan to protect the Australian citizens from all the bad stuff on the internet (whether they like it or not) is being driven by Steven Conroy - the Minister of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy who has the rather vague sounding plan to install a firewall to filter all internet requests from Australia.

So what's the latest news on this internet filter project? Well not surprisingly it's not going well, the reason I'm not surprised is that if Mr Conroy had taken any proper technical advice (except from the people who are flogging them all the kit) - he'd have realised that it's an impractical, unmanageable and a technically flawed solution.

What has happened is that Mr Conroys Department has been hosting some sort of secret online forum to discuss his proposals with the ISPs. Of course it's now turned out it's not actually very secret and Electronic Frontiers Australia has some screenshots about some of the discussions taking place.

There's nothing too unexpected here, they've not quite decided on most of it, technical problems, issues with drafting the legislation have made the implementation which was supposed to be imminent looks like it might take a while. But whilst looking around the forums they discovered some other considerations and discussions that were taking place - and I must admit it's not one I'd thought of.  Apparently they've been discussing the possibility of making it a criminal offence to advise anyone on how to bypass the Internet Filter when it goes live.

Just to explain, using any of the technologies isn't illegal - Identity Cloaker is one of them, as are proxies and VPNs which all have lots of  other uses.  So these programs and using them would not be illegal but advising anyone that they can be used to bypass the Australian Internet Filter would be a criminal offence.

So any of  these statements could get me locked up next time I go and see the mighty English Cricket team get another pasting in Oz.

  • You can use Identity Cloaker to bypass the Australian Internet filter.
  • If you connect to a VPN server in another country you will bypass the Australian Firewall.
  • Use a secure proxy in the UK to bypass the firewall in Australia.
Well I hope the stupidity of this particular law doesn't get passed,  it's absolutely ridiculous and the only way to enforce it would be to adopt the tactics of oppressive regimes like Iran and China.    There are signs of a rather embarrassed U Turn with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy issuing statements that using circumvention techniques (or advising on them) would not be illegal.  Anyone else get the impression it's all a big fat waste of time.

But beyond forcing people to use products like Identity Cloaker to bypass the Internet filter there is another important point that would affect all non-porn surfing Australian web surfers and that's the network degradation implementing a solution like the Netclean Whitebox system inevitably brings.  But fear not that too has been addressed, they are aware that it will slowly bring the Australian network to a crawl as more and more 'nasty urls' are added to the filters blacklist but the Government has it all in hand -

As the EFA suggests, this answer raises more issues than it addresses, and relies on the degradation of the Australian network being gradual, rather than catastrophic. It does appear, however, that the government has no plans to deal with a possible overload of its firewall bringing the Australian internet to its knees – beyond setting up a review when such an event actually happens.
Great, that sounds like a plan and I'm sure will help promote E-Commerce in Australia thrive.  All I keep thinking of was that Stephen Conroy was born in the UK - I'm so glad he didn't stay, we have enough of our own problems !

To finish, here a video explaining how you can change your IP address to access the latest news and stuff from OZ.


It's also available on YouTube entitled How to Get an Australian IP Address.

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