NZ govt rolls out site-blocking software - but ISPs can opt out

Censorship software is coming to the New Zealand internet - but unlike Australia, our site filtering programme is voluntary for internet service providers, and centres around software custom developed to exclusively target images of child sexual abuse.

Bloggers have been immediately dubious about the Department of Internal Affairs’ new filtering programme, officially announced today.

One, Thomas Beagle, who has led the online campaign questioning filtering, contacted NBR on Tuesday to raise the concern that the new, $150,000 filtering software bought then custom developed by the DIA.

Mr Beagle says the programme represents a breach of the that communications minister Steven Joyce's promise made in NBR on March 13, not to instigate any filtering programme - a reaction to the Australian government’s filtering trial under which not just nefarious sites but mainstream adult sites, gay sites, and even a dentist’s site were (often inadvertently) blocked.

The blogger also fears that once in place, any filtering software could be misused by future governments.

Keith Manch, Deputy Secretary at the DIA, points out there are a number of differences between here and Australia.

Chief among them, the NZ programme - which will start over the next couple of months - is voluntary. If an ISP doesn’t want to participate, for political reasons or because, say, it fears an impact on performance - it doesn’t have to. (For the record, Mr Manch says most ISPs are interested. No performance issues were reported during a two-year trial that included TelstraClear and Vodafone/ihug.)

In regards to mission creep, Mr Manch says the "White Box" filtering software, purchased from Swedish company Netclean, was specifically created to target sites with child sexual abuse images. The DIA further customised it in that direction.

Mr Manch also points out that there will be no facility to “back track”; that is, identify which PC user is trying to access the software’s list of 7000 or so banned sites. There will be no law enforcement; users will simply see an onscreen message telling them that the site they were trying to access is illegal. The DIA will purely record statistics of how many sites are blocked.

Extra money for enforcement
Bloggers have noted that the $150,000 for the software only accounts for part of the extra $611,000 extra allocated to the DIA for online enforcement in the budget.

Mr Manch says the balance of the money will be spent in areas where his agency is very proactive in law enforcement. At any one time, six or seven DIA staff are monitoring newsgroups and file sharing sites, or acting on tips from members of the public or overseas agencies to catch then prosecute those who access exploitive images.

“The filtering system is a response to community expectations that the government and ISPs should do more to provide a safe internet environment,” Keith Manch said. “It is not a silver bullet that will prevent everyone from accessing any sites that might contain images of child sexual abuse, but it is another important tool in the department’s operations to fight the sexual abuse of children.

“The distribution and viewing of images of this abuse – wrongly called child pornography – is trading in human misery. It is the result of real children being sexually abused and exploited in the worst possible way. Each time anyone anywhere in the world accesses one of those images, the child depicted is victimised again.”


11 · Got a question about this story? Leave it in Comments & Questions below.

This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about MyNBR Tags

Post Comment

11 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

Once the possibility is there to do filtering and blocking there will be pressure to use it for more than just the originally proposed purpose. This is exactly what is happening right now in other countries already: Filters were introduced with the 'protect the children' argument. The moment they were in place, pressure mounts from all sides that it could and should be used for other stuff as well. Why should New Zealand be different in that respect?

Once the technology is in place, arbitrary information on the Internet can be filtered, blocked or even monitored. With one simple command, traffic from all New Zealanders to some specific Internet address can be redirected to the DIA servers, facilitating not only blocking but also transparent monitoring.

I talked more about this here: <a href="http://www.geekzone.co.nz/foobar/6637">http://www.geekzone.co.nz/foobar/...

This is a slippery slope, and we shouldn't get on it at all.

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

Firstly I would like to applaud this site for having a comments section.

Secondly, I must absolutely agree with the first post. This is a slipery slope.

Thirdly, censorship is able to be self provided by search engines/ or client side software.

Fouthly, most forums of technical professions such as slashdot.org constantly mock countrys for implementing national level firewalls. We will be mocked and we deserve it.

Fifthly, you couldn't stop anyone who wanted to view a website that wants to bad enough. There are free internet proxies that get around such firewalls.

Sixth, it is dangerous to promote the idea of a child safe firewall or similar because it gives the ignorant the impression that they are safe from illicit content and most people assume there are no sites blocked that could be legitimate.

Seventh, potential for slower internet browsing speeds.

Eighth point, focus on removing demand for non desirable content should be addressed as opposed to banning things. (Even optionally banning is not addressing the demand).

Ninth, a promoted firewall by the government is not good for promoting a free-ish market competition. For products such as content filters, firewalls etc, freedom of choice is important because if everyone uses the same security product the bypasses for these systems become more publicly voiced/known etc

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

If this doesn't show the sheeple we are a Police State, or at least that Nanny is really starting to run amok badly, then what will?

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

Like Thailand did with their filtering/censoring of the web.
Now they citizens can't download Wikileaks.

It can't happen here , Of course not .
The politicians will assure us that they are men/women of honour.

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

this blocking is a joke, look at other countries who use content filters atm they are now blocking heaps of useful sites and who wants some idiot politicians who cant keep him/herself clean to be moneriting our internet usage, I SAY LEAVE OUR INTERNET ALONE ITS NOT PERFECT BUT IT WORKS start f***ing with it and you might aswell cut it off for all the good youll do. And to comment on any supporters of this blocking how bout you learn the pros and cons of such a scheme before you support it I can guarantee you will change your mind with a bit of research and ask the IT Techs not the politicians as to whether its a good idea, Its funny how the two disagree yet people trust the guy who lies for a job rather than the one that fixes things for a job

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

The filtering is ineffective because:
1. It will always be a few steps behind. Depends upon how often the blacklist is updated. How are sites added to the list? Who finds them? Who decides to add them to the list? How long does it take for a site to be added to the list?
2. It's straightforward to bypass any such filtering. The filters will stop only newbies, casual, and accidental browsers.

The real hardcare pedos will know sites that aren't on the blacklist and will know how to bypass the filters. So: What is being accomplished?

This exercise starts with "filtering child exploitation sites" and entrenches the mechanisms for arbitrary site blocking and usage logging. Most concerning is the complete lack of transparent oversight.

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

completely agree, what country are we living in? China?

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

Whilst I agree 100% that it is wrong to censor what we can and can't view. I do believe, we have to acknowledge that there clearly is an issue and, to be completely honest, most of us (being normal individuals) are unaware just how bad the issue is as it is a concept that the majority of us wouldn't fathom. Clearly, the last thing the government can do regarding the given subject is nothing.

I don't however, believe censorship is the key. As stated above people that want to view that information will find ways to access it and then, not only will we as tax payers have the cost of this software to fund, we will also have to fund additional policing.

Furthermore, once we accept censorship of media in any form, we become vulnerable to further censorship that we are unaware of. Perhaps it wouldn't happen in New Zealand but, there would be the possibility for governments to manipulate what information we receive to manipulate the general publics views and opinions.

I think its a scary subject with no possible correct outcome.

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

@Daniel - there is b'r all c p out there to be found. You could browse the Internet full time for years looking for the seediest sites possible and not find any. The closest would be adult sites that use "c p" as a keyword to lure people in, but then serve legitimate adult content. I bet most of the list is legitimate sites - otherwise, why not send the list to the police and have them shut down?

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

Although the internet is seen as a medium for freedom of expression, it still needs moderation and censorship because some people abuse this freedom of expression. In order to protect our children form contact with potential harmful content when browsing the internet, software like <a rel="follow" href="http://www.paretologic.com/products/regcure/index.aspx">registry cleaner</a>s or site blocking applications are needed. Since it's a matter of choice among ISPs, they can manage an internal poll to find out if their clients would want such a software or not.

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

It's scary how this has been done in such a secret fashion by the Government. Contrast with Australia's open and fair debate on the topic! This has made NZ a bit of a joke in tech circles, especially combined with our copyright-infringement-means-disconnection S92A law attempts. Are we trying to tell the world we're a free country and attract talented immigrants, or not?

Of course this will be very easy for anyone to work around (spending 30 seconds configuring an overseas proxy server, Tor or similar software will mean they're never, ever blocked again). It's basically a waste of money and time that would better be spent pursuing offenders.

Thirdly, paedophilia is extemely rare anyway, despite the intense media focus on it. There's only a couple of cases a year prosecuted in NZ. As a result it's virtually impossible to stumble upon accidentally, meaning this censorship plan largely solves a non-existant problem.

Also, if the DIA knows of however many thousand websites exploiting children, why can't they liase with the webhosts and countries involved to shut down the websites in question? As far as I know abusive images of children are illegal worldwide, and tracing an IP address back to a host is a trivial procedure. This, also, would be a better use for taxpayer dollars.

Finally, consider what happens when the situation changes? For instance:

1) A judge issues a court order to censor any website mentioning a high-profile defendant (e.g. David Bain) to avoid influencing a trial. What does the DIA do then?

2) The next MMP election ends with United Future or a similar minor party holding the "balance of power", and decide that hugely expanded Internet filtering would be a rather nice bargaining chip to form a coalition.

3) The list expands by natural means. What about bondage, then gay sites, then all adult sites, then anonymiser/proxy servers...

I for one am not happy about giving the Dept of Internal Affairs free reign to transparently analyse or block traffic to any/all sites they want (as they can with a BGP based list). It won't solve the problem at all, and is ripe for abuse.

Reply
Share
  • 0
  • 0

Post New comment or question

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

NZ Market Snapshot

Forex

Sym Price Change
USD 0.7333 0.0000 0.00%
AUD 0.9160 0.0013 0.14%
EUR 0.6176 -0.0001 -0.02%
GBP 0.5439 0.0002 0.04%
HKD 5.7225 0.0036 0.06%
JPY 82.4590 -0.0760 -0.09%

Commods

Commodity Price Change Time
Gold Index 1301.0 -9.900 2017-09-20T00:
Oil Brent 56.3 1.090 2017-09-20T00:
Oil Nymex 50.7 1.150 2017-09-20T00:
Silver Index 17.3 0.055 2017-09-20T00:

Indices

Symbol Open High Last %
NZX 50 7851.1 7851.1 7819.2 -0.46%
NASDAQ 6459.7 6466.1 6461.3 -0.08%
DAX 12550.9 12593.2 12561.8 0.06%
DJI 22351.4 22413.3 22370.8 0.19%
FTSE 7275.2 7289.9 7275.2 -0.05%
HKSE 28091.2 28184.4 28127.8 0.10%
NI225 20456.5 20481.3 20310.5 0.40%
ASX 5709.1 5709.1 5709.1 -0.87%