Posts Tagged 'blacklist'

Conroy disappoints again

SBS’s Insight programme tonight was good, but not great. Conroy for once had to stand up to his critics, but as usual, his responses were lacking.

He did manage to expand on a point he made last week on Q&A. He talked non-specifically about reforming the way classifications are made to ensure public “confidence” in the system. I won’t bother talking too much about the implied admission that the current regime isn’t suited to classifying websites (even though it’s been doing it for the past nine years, as Conroy loves to remind us so often), as I’d much prefer to talk about these reforms in terms of the way they could change our debate.

As it stands at the moment, those of us campaigning against Conroy’s filter know exactly what we’re fighting against: a mandatory scheme which will attempt to block all kinds of material from some MA15+ to child porn and everything in between. Individuals who have had their websites blacklisted will have no recourse, as the list will be held under lock and key.

With these reforms Conroy has hinted at, he is essentially asking us to support a scheme without telling us how the classifications will be made, even in the short/medium term. One of my deepest held concerns is that there is no way to know how the proposed mandatory filter will be (mis)used in the years and decades into the future. Conroy has brought this concern forward, and it now applies to the coming months.

newtonpattenI have to commend Mark Newton of Internode and Fiona Patten of the Australian Sex Party. Both were extremely knowledgeable, and took it to Conroy on all levels. In particular, Mark destroyed the idea of the filter having any shred of efficacy, and Fiona exposed Cornoy’s “refused classification and illegal material” doublespeak.

All in all, the Insight format was far better than Q&A, even though they did spend a lot of time on what I would consider topics inconsequential to the current debate. Check it out.

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Don’t get too worried about Optus

Optus has renewed its wish to be included in Conroy’s mandatory filter trial.

My understanding is that Optus and Conroy have always been in “negotiations”, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Conroy now starts trying to push Optus to get in on it. He is in desperate need of a large ISP to add credibility to his trial.

There’s no reason for Optus customers to overreact just yet. What they’re saying still sounds reasonable:

  • Optus is participating in order to accurately gauge the impact this type of technology would have on our network.
  • Willingness to participate in the trial does not necessarily indicate support of mandatory filtering.
  • It’s a trial – and designed to test the effectiveness and impact of such filters on a network environment.
  • Optus wants its customers to have a safe experience on the internet and considers cyber-safety an important issue for all internet users.
  • Optus would rather be a ‘part of the conversation’ than not be involved if the Govt decided to mandate filtering.

The only problem I can see is in the answer to the last question, “What about other content like adult content and things the government might like to stop people viewing?“. Optus answers:

  • Optus will NOT be filtering this type of content.

As I’ve previously reported, some of the most popular pornographic websites in Australia do appear on the ACMA blacklist. I think Optus customers should be notified that this is the case, as the current answer is very misleading.

Such are the difficulties for a PR department trying to answer questions about a secret blacklist.

I don’t support it…

…but I still think it’s funny.

Hackers defaced the Australian classification board’s website last night.

UPDATE: Websinthe offers a sensible comparison between pros and cons of the attack.

I’m later than I thought on this news. I guess I was too caught up in Conroy’s Q&A rubbish last night to notice.

Conroy suggests voters give Labor the flick

It looks like Conroy is starting to talk some sense:

(Voters can) toss us out if they don’t like what we do or they don’t like what somebody else does.

I think we might just take you up on that.

Webshield’s Anthony Pillion is an idiot

Anthony Pillion

The neckbearded Anthony Pillion

Of the six ISPs participating in Stephen Conroy’s mandatory filtering trial, none have had a higher profile than Webshield. Webshield’s managing director, Anthony Pillion, has frequently made himself available for comment, generally offering his heartfelt support of filtering.

Webshield, who voluntarily offers ISP level filtering to its customers, could see its niche in the market destroyed by Conroy’s MIF scheme. This makes some of Anthony Pillion’s comments all the more bizarre. In a terrible article published by AustralianIT, he had this to say:

The mandatory level of filtering proposed by the government is not some pipe dream; filtering large volumes of traffic for small lists of URLs is possible and viable with technology available today.

Another complaint is that content will be blocked when it shouldn’t be. Over blocking is an issue for dynamic filtering not for blacklist filtering.

This is absolute nonsense. Considering that the blacklist will be handled by government bureaucrats, it will be subject to the full array of human error, or more likely, human stupidity. As the recent ACMA leak shows, popular and completely innocent websites have made their way onto the blacklist.

The most telling comments from Pillion emerged following the first ACMA blacklist leak, which was said to have been inaccurate:

Anthony Pillion, managing director of Webshield, one of six ISPs participating in the Federal Government’s internet filtering trial also said “there is a giant question mark over the motive and credibility of the content in the leak”.

Pillion said the leaked list was not a list of URLs in use during the trials.

“It seems as if it is a compilation of information available on the web, and includes some URL’s never investigated by ACMA,” he said.

“That makes it questionable at least.”

“It has more basis in michief than in credibility.”

[…]

An online story in a Sydney newspaper earlier today attributed the leak without qualification to a Government-approved maker of internet filtering products.

Pillion doubted those companies would leak the information.

“The only motive could be somebody that dislikes intensely what the Government is proposing at the moment, and will go to any lengths to undermine it.”

For the past two years, ACMA has sent weekly updates of its lists to makers of internet filters, Pillion said: “There would have to be copies of various lists floating around”.

The lists used in filtering trial are encrypted and “far more secure”, he said.

While it’s not easy to work out exactly what Pillion is trying to say, it seems he’s unaware that the blacklist can be easily extracted from filtering software by people who have the relevant technical knowledge. The companies themselves don’t need to leak the information as, by design, the list must be stored somewhere within the program. Is Pillion computer illiterate, or just completely stupid?

It seems amazing that Pillion could talk about leakers lacking “credibility” when he’s supporting actions which are bound to hurt his company.

What do we know about the ACMA leak fiasco?

Conroy is not a happy camper.

Conroy is not a happy camper.

Yesterday was one of the biggest news days in the online filtering debate so far. Wikileaks published a list of URLs which purported to be the ACMA’s official blacklist. Responses from Conroy and the ACMA have been hard to completely decipher, but here’s what we know so far:
 
 
 
The list’s accuracy is still a point of contention.

Stephen Conroy said yesterday, “I am aware of reports that a list of URLs has been placed on a website; this is not the ACMA blacklist.

“There are some common URLs to those on the ACMA blacklist. However, ACMA advises that there are URLs on the published list that have never been the subject of a complaint or ACMA investigation, and have never been included on the ACMA blacklist.”

Wikileaks said the disparity in the reported figure was probably due to the fact that the list contained several duplicates and variations of the same URL that stem from a single complaint.

The ACMA, of course, will not say which URLs have never been the subject of a complaint. They have not ruled out, for instance, that the website of popular international gambling service, BetFair, does appear on the official ACMA list. Wikileaks stands by the accuracy of the list.

The ACMA and Stephen Conroy have threatened legal action for distribution of the allegedly (in)accurate list.

“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take, including referral to the Australian Federal Police,” Senator Conroy said.

The watchdog has warned that anyone who republishes the list or attempts to access child pornography sites on it could face up to 10 years in prison.

It has also warned that linking to sites on the list could incur fines of up to $11,000 a day.

There’s a mile wide grey area here. Will I be fined or jailed for ten years for simply linking to Wikileaks? I’m not providing direct access to the list, nor am I republishing it. Wikileaks has been named as the source of the alleged leak in numerous mainstream media outlets.

Will I be fined $11,000 a day for linking to BetFair, a website that appears on the Wikileaks list? Without a conclusive statement from Conroy or the ACMA notifying the public which websites are not on the official ACMA list, I don’t know what I’m allowed to link to.

The ordeal has shaken up the ACMA.

“ACMA is discussing with the IIA what, if any, action it may need to take to help ensure that ACMA’s list remain secure,” the authority said in a statement. “ACMA considers that any publication of the ACMA blacklist would have a substantial adverse effect on the effective administration of the regulatory scheme which aims to prevent access to harmful and offensive online material.”

“Such publication would undermine the public interest outcomes which the current legislation aims to achieve.”

Several blacklists used by different censorship bodies across the world have leaked onto Wikileaks recently. Considering that the ACMA provides their official list to developers who make home Internet filtering software, I would posit that an eventual leak is inevitable if the recent list that has emerged is not accurate.

The ACMA claims that publication of their lists undermines “public interest outcomes”, but seeing as we have no other way of ensuring that the agency is sticking solely to child pornography, what else can we do? If I were the owner of BetFair, I would want to know if my website had been blacklisted, particularly considering that this list will form the basis of our Mandatory Internet Filter scheme. What recourse would BetFair have if they one day found that nobody in Australia could access their website?

There are still too many unanswered questions.

Although this debacle has enlightened us to how the ACMA and Conroy might act in certain situations, what they have failed to address seems far more telling than what they have addressed. It seems to me that Conroy, and to a lesser extent, the ACMA, have deliberately blurred the lines with respect to this list. They have advised that there are things we can’t do with this list, while at the same time claiming that not all the websites on it are blacklisted.

I hope we see more and more leaks forthcoming. The media frenzy that has surrounded this issue has given us a great opportunity to bring our many concerns to the forefront.

Information sourced from:1 2 3

ACMA blacklist revealed

As promised, the ACMA’s secret blacklist has been revealed and added to the front page of Wikileaks.

UPDATE: Wikileaks is having intermittent outages. I presume this is just a temporary issue resulting from high traffic following the leak.

Here’s some of the media reporting that has come out so far on this issue.

UPDATE #2: Conroy claims that the leaked list is inaccurate. While I’m not about to start believing Conroy, even if the leak is bogus, the questions that surround the secretive list are still valid.

STotC is keeping a close eye on things.

UPDATE #3: OzSoapbox has a copy of the list in .txt format. Wikileaks is still suspiciously down back up now (20/03/09 0015 AEDT).