[LINK] Senate Standing Committee: NetAlert/Mandatory filtering updates

Daniel Rose drose at nla.gov.au
Tue Feb 19 17:47:50 EST 2008

Jan Whitaker wrote:

> Is the program to protect children from accessing nasties OR is it a 
> block from those who would access the kid pr0n, thereby reducing the 
> 'benefit' to those who make the "$billions" each year from it? The first 
> is a parental overstep by the government. The second is a moralistic 
> restriction like is sometimes used in control of prostitution -- 
> arresting the johns, concentrating on reducing demand and starving the 
> sellers. Which is it?

To propose solutions to either reason:

For the former, ISPs could sell a product which is transparently proxied through a service which only allows a fixed list of URLs through.

They could start by vetting, say, the 100 (1000?) most-visited sites from their current user base, checking them "manually" and discarding any that are clearly out of scope.  More sites would be added by request from the paying customers, after vetting by the ISP.

While this would present some problems (google for starters!) it's a pretty solid basis for what a lot of people loudly claim to want.

Since, AFAIK, no ISPs have offered such a service, it seems that there is no viable market for such a thing.  Why then isn't there a coalition of church and community groups getting together to start their own clean feed ISP?  They already have tax-free status so it seems that this could be done without too much fuss.  I suppose it's because there's a net loss of funds for whoever runs such a service, and nobody wants to lose money.  A church group in Canberra ships computers to Africa for schools, so I'm sure a local ISP is not too big a project.

Unlike national "at the core" proposals, this sort of setup would be likely to succeed from a purely technical perspective, provided the list management processes are sound.

As for the second reason, blocking people from committing a crime of this nature is, IMHO, a matter of finding and busting the providers and jailing them, which is what we are already doing, and what we should do when a crime is committed.  We don't usually engage in "blocking" crime.

Why don't cars have electronic governors which use either GPS or roadside transmitters to determine the current speed limit, and refuse to go faster?  We have governors in many trucks set to 100klms/hour.  This is technically possible, and would prevent habitual speeders, but it's expensive and results in a less useful environment. The core filtering idea is far less technically viable, would not prevent habitual porn users and is also expensive and restricts the use of the infrastructure.

This really is a matter of understanding the technology and the capabilities.  Perhaps if we propose preventing child abductions by searching the boot of every car on every freeway people will try harder to grasp the problems with the proposal.

Lastly, if this list of URLs exists, and is no doubt in all kinds of different blocking software and appliances, why isn't it up on wikileaks yet?


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