Filtering the web will not stop distribution of child porn

The majority of child pornography images are shared across the internet through peer-to-peer files and not through websites, InternetNZ says. Because of this, the government's development of the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System will not necessarily stop these images from being shared between abusers or decrease the demand for child pornography.

The majority of child pornography images are shared across the internet through peer-to-peer files and not through websites, InternetNZ says.

Because of this, the government’s development of the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System will not necessarily stop these images from being shared between abusers or decrease the demand for child pornography.

InternetNZ released a position paper yesterday rejecting the filtering system and called upon the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) to conduct a study into the extent of access of child pornography on the internet and to what extent censoring the internet would reduce this by.

InternetNZ policy director Jordan Carter said that although child pornography was “abhorrent” but enforcing filtering systems onto internet service providers (ISPs) could lead New Zealand down a "slippery slope".

Mr Carter said the concern was once it become voluntary for ISPs to adopt, it could late become mandatory. “People need to install their own filtering systems or ISPs need to give people a choice but not simply to block it. The idea behind it is to make the internet a safer place but this is not going to make it safer.

“If it becomes mandatory, where do you draw the line? I don’t think this government has any intention of crossing that line but in the future perhaps. These are various things that are illegal on the internet, once the DIA has this technology it could be used to block sites that reveal suppression orders and other refused classifications.”

Mr Carter said there needs to be a balance on the internet. “If serious abusers want this content they will find the material. The majority is distributed through peer-to-peer files and not through websites [which is what the filtering system would stop].

“Peer-to-peer is when software is used to distribute a file on a user’s computer to other individuals, the internet is used as a means of distributing the content [music as with illegally downloaded music files and movies].

“This filtering system should not go ahead,” Mr Carter said.

Mr Carter said InternetNZ supported a "safe environment" but added the filter would only help at the margin while child abuse material would still be available on the internet.

"The filter would disrupt the end-to-end connectivity that has made the internet the useful tool it is today. It creates some confidentiality concerns, and is not subject to all the usual lawful checks and balances that apply to all other parts of New Zealand's censorship regime.

"Besides studying the scale of the problem, the preferred approach New Zealand needs to take is a proactive one. People need to understand the risks of such material and they need to be made aware of things that they can do to avoid it,” Mr Carter said.

The government bought the “White Box” filtering software from Swedish company Netclean that was specifically created to target sites with child sexual abuse images. The software cost $150,000 and the DIA has further customised it.