[LINK] New Zealand set to join internet blocking club

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Thu Jul 16 09:27:10 AEST 2009

New Zealand set to join internet blocking club
Concerns over oversight and spying on users
By John Ozimek
15th July 2009 11:03 GMT
The Register

New Zealand is preparing to join the list of internet blockers. From 
last week, New Zealanders who want to know what is in store for them can 
access a useful new online resource - "the Compleat Thomas Beagle" - 
which includes a FAQ providing in-depth coverage of political and 
technological issues involved.

At present, New Zealand has no official internet blocking, although 
possession and publication of obscene material is covered under the 
Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. Responsibility 
for policing what goes on to the internet falls to the Department of 
Internal Affairs (DIA), who have largely been concerned with material 
featuring the abuse of children or sex with animals.

Once blocking goes live, the DIA claim that the block list will focus 
exclusively on the first of these categories: it is reported that the 
DIA’s Censorship Compliance Unit has developed a list of over 7000 sites 
containing child pornography. If true, this is an interestingly large 
figure, being about five times the size of the block list maintained by 
the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation, and significantly larger than the 
lists put in place over the last year or so by other European nations.

Two features of the DIA’s approach are likely to excite controversy. The 
first is the degree of oversight carried out in respect of the DIA’s 
work. As debate over internet censorship grows, the question that 
continues to be put to governments and law enforcement is how they can 
re-assure the public that blocked sites fall within legitimate law 
enforcement criteria.

The line of "trust me: I’m a police officer" is not one that inspires 
great public confidence.

To date, the DIA has refused to publish their list, claiming, via the 
Official Information Act, that to do so would be "likely to prejudice 
the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and 
detection of offences, and the right to a fair trial".

Initially, the block list will be voluntary: ISP’s may choose whether or 
not to take it. Where ISP’s do choose to make use of the service – 
facilitated via Netclean Whitebox - a routing protocol will inform them 
that the "best" way to the internet address of the banned site’s web 
server is through the DIA’s filtering server.

Where an individual requests access to a banned site, the DIA server may 
refuse the request and bounce a message back. There is some facility for 
individuals to object to the site being blocked: since the list runs at 
internet address level, a number of sites may be blocked that host 
perfectly legitimate content.

At present, there is no agreement on whether or not to refer the names 
of individuals attempting to access blocked sites to law enforcement. 
This is the second issue likely to prove controversial: it was proposed 
recently in respect of laws passed to block access to similar material 
in Germany – and legislators decided that such a move would be a step 
too far.

New Zealand has still to make up its mind.

The Department of Internal Affairs has budgeted an additional $617,000 
for Censorship Enforcement Activities for the 2009/2010 financial year, 
including $150,000 for internet filtering software.

ISP’s that have already said they will participate in this scheme 
include hug, Watchdog, Maxnet and TelstraClear. Telecom (Xtra) and 
Vodafone have also expressed interest. This would mean that blocking 
would apply to around 94% of the New Zealand internet on the day it goes 


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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