While Australia has been suffering under yet another fruitless attempt to censor the internet on the grounds of protecting children, the NZ government has just gone ahead and done it without public consultation. And now the scheme has met daylight. Internet filter sparks outrage
The Government is spending $150,000 on website "filtering" software, outraging some bloggers who say the move amounts to censorship of the internet.It is unfortuante that those defending civil liberties have to make common cause with the least desirable elements in society first, its how those who are prepared to undermine everyone's civil liberties slide these ideas in under the radar. And we are always assured that "only those dreadful people will be affected", until they aren't. Pastor Martin Niemöller turns out to be right most of the time.
Since 2007 the Department of Internal Affairs' Censorship Compliance Unit has worked with a small group of internet service providers on a "trial" project to block access to websites distributing child pornography.
The project, using hardware and software supplied by a Swedish technology company, thwarts access to more than 7000 websites known to offer child sexual abuse material.
If computer users subscribed to the ISPs involved in the trial - which now include TelstraClear, ihug, Watchdog and Maxnet - attempt to access sites on the DIA's blacklist they are re-directed to a message explaining the site has been blocked.
Until now the DIA's filtering project has been run on a shoestring Budget of $2000 or $3000 a year, but the department won $150,000 in this year's Budget to buy software to expand the system beyond a trial. The money was part of a $661,000 Budget increase for "censorship enforcement activity".
In a letter to Wellington blogger Thomas Beagle, Censorship Compliance Unit manager Steve O'Brien said because New Zealand's censorship legislation - the Film, Videos and Publications Classification Act - contained no specific authority for website filtering, ISPs' participation in the trial had been voluntary.
O'Brien said the country's largest ISP, Telecom, along with ihug owner Vodafone, had "expressed their willingness to participate" in the expanded programme.
In his blog, Beagle wrote he was concerned there was no "external oversight" of websites added to the department's blacklist.
"It is being implemented in a very 'under the radar' way so as to avoid the fuss that has been raised in other countries such as Australia," he said.
"If we are going to implement internet filtering I believe it should be done openly and through law."
[...] Mauricio Freitas, the Wellington-based founder of popular technology website Geekzone, also blogged about his concerns there was no oversight to the filtering process, meaning it could be extended beyond blocking child porn sites.
"[T]here isn't a publicly available list of blacklisted websites, and no guarantees that a secret meeting between government agencies wouldn't in the future add other 'categories' to this list," he said.
For more on this issue check Kiwi blogger The Compleat Thomas Beagle and if you are a member of Internet NZ, you might want to ask them about this statement on the topic that they sent him.
Governments have the right to determine what is and what is not objectionable, and to take action against that. InternetNZ’s view is that only objectionable material, as defined in the Act, could be a legitimate case for censorship.
As Beagle says, "I think we have to interpret that as Internet NZ being, if not in favour, at least not being against the net filtering scheme. This is an interesting contrast to the mission statement on their website:"
We work to keep the Internet open and uncaptureable, protecting and promoting the Internet for New Zealand.
Our objective is “high performance and unfettered access for all” so the Internet continues to operate in an open environment that cannot be captured by any entity or individual for their own ends.
Is Government-run internet filtering “capture” and what does that mean for “unfettered access”.
Beagle, rightly, wants to know what they are talking about in their discussions with the DIA.Twitter feed for the topic.