I received an email from GetUp today stating that “live trials” of Australia’s Internet filtering system are about to begin.
The system filters a secret blacklist of sites from all Australian computers. An earlier leaked version of the list found around 2000 sites, mostly child pornography.
A couple of things are happening here that I would like to draw everyone’s attention to:
- The list that was leaked will change
- The list can be used for monitoring, not just blocking
- We have no idea what will be added or removed from the list, because it’s classified
- Secret blacklists are used by the CIA in the US to monitor email traffic. Resolving those IP addresses is interesting: ACLU.org, nytimes.com, various Universities. Basically a who’s-who of the recipients of leaked government information.
So I would ask you, who is the government ultimately going to protect with this system: You, or themselves?
From a technical perspective, this system is far more useful for the restriction of politically damaging speech by regular citizens than preventing anyone from accessing child porn, which is typically disseminated on ad-hoc peer-to-peer darknets and never on web sites. These darknets are encrypted, so the best way to bust the ring is – guess what? – traditional law enforcement. Using a system like this to prevent people from accessing illegal porn is like playing whack-a-mole with millions of moles. Ultimately you’ll just beat the forest to a pulp.
- This system is not useful for preventing access to porn, and the government knows it. They’re not stupid.
- The blacklist was leaked early to convince everyone that (a) this is really about porn, and (b) this system isn’t going to work anyway – let’s not worry about it
- The government has successfully used this cover to put in place a national firewall that can monitor and record every packet going through every major ISP and internet backbone – something you could never make a case for in Parliament. But protecting the kids? That will get passed easily.
We must reject this appalling intrusion against our privacy. Contact your local member of parliament and make your voice heard. GetUp’s campaign is a good place to start.
Conspiracy theory is entirely my own and not associated with GetUp, who are probably a bit more sensible than me.
One thought on “It’s time to get angry about Australian Internet censorship”
You are making a large leap of faith that such snooping and monitoring did not / does not already exist on the ISP level…. and as with most faiths it is based in fiction 🙂
Other than that, the majority of the post stands. ISP’s and the technology industry have been decrying this as a futile path from the beginning, in fact a few ISP’s signed up for the trial with the specific intention of proving the ineffectiveness of it and the non-viability (did I just make that term up?) of the concept.
We all know that it is impossible for a packet or url filter/sniffer to correctly identify traffic that is deliberately masked, and that the vast majority of people doing things illegal will be doing so through such channels. Whether this is for nefarious purposes, or merely ill-conceived window dressing (perhaps a misguided ‘surely we can just do this’ from people with no technical awareness) would be speculation on my part, but I have no doubt that it will fail to achieve the stated aim in all but a handful of stupid cases that would logically have been detected by traditional means.