back to article Is the internet going down down under?

The battle is now on for the soul of the Australian internet. The outcome could have enormous repercussions for the future of the internet in the UK. Regular readers will be aware of the Australian Government’s plans to clamp down on the internet down under. These, the brainchild of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, have …


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  1. Graham Marsden

    This sort of material

    ... "is currently being filtered by a number of ISPs in countries such as the UK.

    "This is not strictly true"

    Well, not yet, anyway, but given the attitude of Mr Salter and friends...

    Also Mr Salter says "No one is trying to stop consenting adults doing whatever they want in the bedroom" but this is BS because if they want to take photographs in their bedrooms, they might be committing a criminal offence!

    There again, Mr Salter also believes that snuff movies actually exist, instead of being a well known urban myth...

  2. Michael Xion
    Thumb Down's already gone

    Unfortunately, labor won the last election by securing the votes of a lot of traditional conservatives through proposing such half-baked schemes as this. Maybe we wouldn't be subjected to this if they hadn't already promised to provide every school-aged child with a computer (but not the funding for installation, maintenance, rollover etc).

    The simple solution is to not let children access the internet. I had no access to the internet as a child and (shock, horror) I can actually read and write!

    In addition, broadband speed outside capital cities is woeful - the best I can get at home is 512/512 and I live less than 50km from the 3rd largest city in Oz - anything that further slows it down is not going to be good.

  3. Bruce
    Black Helicopters

    Tech solution to social problem

    Everyone knows that censorship does--- work.

    I fail to see what people are fearing, as they'll ----- pull this off.

    Hmm, there's someone at the door...

  4. Haku

    'extreme porn' ?

    Is that in the same context as 'extreme ironing' ? that would be quite entertaining to watch actually

    ie doing it on a tightrope across a ravine, on the side of a mountain rockface, underwater with scuba gear, whilst skydiving, on the roof of a moving vehicle, in a cycling race, in a wind tunnel, whilst waterskiing, etc. etc.

  5. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Men without knowledge

    This is just a case of politicians with limited technical knowledge being pressured by religious fundamentalists into spending huge amounts of tax payers money on dodgy technology, eagerly supported by vapourware salespeople.

    It is bollocks.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Mr Newton

    As I posted on Slashdot a weel ago, knowing him, good luck shutiing up Mr Newton.

    Clobbering him with a brick *might* do it!

    In fact it would probably take a whole house.

    The PR droid that tried would have got quite a few interesting Emails when her address was published on a forum recently I reckon!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    govt gone wild

    this wasnt even on the adgenda when the election rolled through, thats what really pisses me off about these kinds of grand schemes. They were too busy talking about deploying next gen 'fibre to your street' and 'wireless to your farm house' broadband as their IT portfolio trump card, thats what got a lot of techy people interested in what they had in mind, and this is exactly what would of put them off.

    its like this filter crap is just to one up the last govt who introduced that rather average content control software to save the children as their call to action. while i only saw reports telling us how it wasnt all that great at least it was free and opt-in, all parents had to do is get up off their asses and install it.

    as it stands im not even worried about being filtered, im worried about what they will log though, how they will use the logged data, and then the speed impact on our internet access. anything sensitive can be tunneled with SSL, and that includes what they want to block. similarly you could vpn out. if they realise this they will have to block crypto to make their scheme work, which will neatly isolate australia from the ecommerce world. and thats just how its going to be. you either have a filter thats bypassed by vpns, tor and crypted torrents or you have a walled garden with http access.

    maybe they are taking their cues from the WA dept of eduation and training, who pump all their schools through a bank of proxies that only forward http and ftp data, allowing them to neatly block sites by dns records and ip addresses on a per request basis. if thats the case i look forward to third of line speed downloads during peak hours and weekly outages as the proxies fall over.

  8. Patrick Ernst

    aussie uprising

    Bloody hell governments are stupid. Unfortunately most Ministers and upper level public servants rarely understand computer based technology - hence they make "all of govt" purchasee decisions despite the best efforts of technical staff.

    Mostly we aussies are a bit lazy about protesting this kind of thing but it looks like this time we're getting of our bums to complain. There was a protest aust-wide of Saturday and people are now starting to write to MPs on both sides of the house. There is some info on the Linuxsa mail list that Mark Newton often posts to.

    This we will defeat or work around it!

  9. Bastard Sheep

    One issue not mentioned ...

    ... is what to call this thing. Most are using the uncreative "great firewall of australia", stolen directly from the great firewall of china. However, there are many more ideas out there which have a much more Australian ring to them such as "Great Sharknet of Australia" (Note: May catch the odd dolphin) or the "Rabbit Proof Firewall" (Note: Search for the movie "rabbit proof fence" if you don't understand).

  10. Magani
    Black Helicopters

    New headline: Oz to follow the UK and...

    ... give away all personal responsibility to the state?

    What ever happened to parental rsponsibility in supervising what your children look at on the net? Just because some parents can't be bothered, the rest of the Greater Antipodes has to put up with censorship worthy of China or Iran.

    Mrs Magani once worked for a health authority who decided to filter all graphics attached to e-mails according to skin tones. Guess which baby health units could no longer look at patient records? What other unforseen events will this precipitate?

    It'll all end in tears, I tell you.

    I don't go looking for porn (I'm too bl**dy old to remember) or read Playboy (except for the articles, you understand) but figure any thinking person has the right to choose what they do or don't want to look at.

    Black helicopters are coming, I tell you....

  11. Anonymous Coward

    This is getting lots of attention

    The best idea I've heard so far from the ISP lists is to just block the ALP's web site. Maybe even a few of the government web sites too. Let the government know that while they can make the rules of who to censor, they still need the guys with the keys to the routers to implement their evil plan.

  12. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If ISP level content filters were popular ...

    ISP's would be selling that as a service.

    (Paris Hilton picture missed out to avoid content filtering)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Opt-out = bad

    Opt-in should always be the default for everything. As soon as you opt-out you're suddenly on a list; a list of perverts, a list of subversives and so on. I'm opting out of opting out.

  14. Tim Bates
    Thumb Down

    Crazy Conroy...

    First thing he did in office was scrap a massive rural broadband project that would have seen the area I live in free from the shackles of Telstra.

    Second thing he did was delay the National Broadband Network, which was the excuse for scrapping the above.

    Third thing is this harebraind filter scheme...

    I'm expecting the forth thing to be ditch the NBN because speeds will suck anyway with the filtering.

    And what pisses me off more is that neither he nor his staff are responding to emails about this issue. How hard is it to flick off a canned reply?

  15. ilago
    Black Helicopters

    Australia is not very impressed

    Australia has had a procession of luddites as Minister for All Things Digital for years and years. At least the last one wasn't dumb enough to try and pull this off. It appears that there is no MP or Senator with a significant grasp of technology to even understand the objections. First they think it will work. Second they seem to be bowing to pressure from very small but vocal pressure groups. The last government provided a net filter free to anyone that wanted it. Around 100,000 were downloaded. Apparently nobody wanted it, so they decide to do this instead.

    The "blacklist" is secret. There is no public or Parliamentary scrutiny of the "blacklist". The "blacklist" is exempt from Freedom of Information.

    The working group putting this together has no member of any civil liberties or consumer group on it. It's entirely composed of organisations that already agree, public servants and industry groups. The general public don't have a seat, but Microsoft and Google get one each WTF???

    The wider implications of the government having sufficient resources to carry out wholesale censorship just like China, Iran and North Korea seem to have escaped their attention.

  16. paul clarke

    Why not filter?

    To be honest, I think this is a great idea. I work in E-Safety and I know how difficult this is going to be, but with the help of government organisations such as CEOPs sites that deliver child pornography can be targeted more effectively.

    What people need to appreciate here is that there is a minority of people who express an interest in the type of material being targeted for filtering. So why not filter it out. The more that the ISPs can do to restrict the delivery of child pornography and other illicit material the better.

  17. Sir Runcible Spoon

    *A title is required. No idea why, but here you go.

    when will these arse-bandits ever learn?

    The internet was designed to be resilient and route around problems. The people who know how the internet ticks are a lot more adaptable the IPv4 so they will pretty much find a way to subvert this kind of stuff.

    It will be 'underground' for a few years before these kind of solutions to their nannying become mainstream, but it'll happen. Look at p2p for your example.

    FFS, most people these days don't even know what a BBS is. If you want to stay under the radar, go lo-tech.

  18. Nigel Wright

    What is it with these people in government?

    Why do they feel a need to meddle with, interfere and regulate our lives? I will decide what I wish to read. There seems to be some mad control freakery desire (especially in this country) in government circles to have a say in everything we do - they work for us and answer to us. Not the other way round - when will they ever learn? What makes them think they are the "moral guardians" to watch over us?

    If I want my internet content filtering I will tell them but I would probably do a better job than them anyway.

  19. lIsRT


    I guess now the stereotypical Tor user will be tinfoil-hat-wearing, terrorist-attack-planning, CP-trading *AND* Australian.

    To be serious, all this does is slow down the "bad" stuff to late 90s speeds (and gets a few more votes from the stupid). Still irritating though.

  20. Gareth Jones Silver badge


    The best filtering solutions cost an awful lot of money and tend to be licensed on a per user basis. I don't believe that can develop a filtering solution that's a good as the best existing systems. So if they want this to work they will end up paying out an absolute fortune on licensing, not to mention the hardware that will need to be thrown at the problem. And if it's not going to affect performance it will need an awful lot of hardware. And then there's the administrative overhead. Anybody who has ever administered a filtering system will tell you that you spend a certain amount of time dealing with requests to allow access to sites that have been blocked. Somebody has to make the decision whether it's a valid site blocked by a false positive. And no I've never found a single filtering system that doesn't throw up the occasional false positive, spread that accross a whole country and that will be a lot of false positives to deal with on a daily basis.

    And who's going to be paying for this? It's either going to be governement or the ISPs. If it's the government then the tax payer pays and surely those who don't touch the internet will object. If it's the ISPs then no doubt prices will go up.

    This really does seem to be a government intent on becoming unpopular. The best bit is, however, that they have now reached a point where they are f**ked either way. If they go ahread with their plans then their popularity will take a dive. If they step back from the edge no doubt the popular media will portray them as a government who don't care about children.

    BTW can they name a single major ISP in the UK that has implemented filtering across the board there isn't one. That's not spin. That's lying.

    In the end though they'll probably go for a cheap solution that does little about anonymous proxies while at the same time throwing up loads of false positives. So it will have no effect on the dodgy types while the average home user who doesn't know about things like anonymous proxies will be plagued by false positives.

  21. Rex Alfie Lee

    Senator Stephen Conroy -> Big Brother in OZ

    I'm an Australian living in Tasmania & also a tech-head. This scenario scares the crap out of me. I want to believe in PM Rudd's Gov't but this is wrong. The last head of the ACCC was a half-wit when it came to tech-knowledge & when she was involved in a debate with Senator Smith she made that completely evident. Just the same her basic position wasn't about technology nor censorship of the public but censorship of Telstra, the incumbent monopoliser & the other telecommunications companies.

    Senator Smith has single-handedly taken it upon himself to oversee what he believes to be his right as the technology hero. Technically he may understand what he's doing but politically he's destroying his own political future.

    He also likes the monopoliser far too much. Living in Tasmania, the monopoliser has two fibre-optic cables passing under Bass Strait & is only using one of them. Telstra will not reduce their ADSL2+ prices & so no other ISP will provide ADSL2 because it is cheaper to send data to the USA than it is to pass data across Bass Strait. How is Senator Smith helping here when nothing has been done about it & the Internet here runs like a dog let alone the rest of Oz?

    Another scenario in the Rudd arsenal to bring Oz into the 22nd Century was the goal of having a computer for every student over the age of 15. I think it should probably be 10 but that's better than Johnnie who didn't even consider it & thinks computers are "really fun, everybody loves computers". Senator Conroy, in his wisdom shows no interest in open-source computing which would reduce the costs of software by millions whether it be Mac or M$. The basic training of the young with any software is virtually not required. They work it out themselves & setting it up is a basic computer chore.

    Whilst I am truly happy to see the back end of John K-K-K-Howard's mantle (he never represented myself) & have Kevin Rudd doing a brilliant job; he is an incredibly hard worker; on a technology front Senator Smith's Big Brother attitude is totally unwanted.

    BTW I refer to Johnnie as K-K-K-Howard because of his n-n-n-need to suck-up to George Dubbya.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bother?

    From what I gather, the internet in Australia is so awful that filtering it is something of a waste of time.

    They must realise that all they'll achieve is cripple their tech sector? I mean, more than their total lack of network infrastructure has.

    Though looking at it from that way, the UK government could save a lot of money by filtering our net accss to death. Then they wouldn't need any pesky fibre optics or anything.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I thought the Puritans headed for the US, but clearly a few did too sharp a turn at Ireland. You can only hope the Australians dig a huge technical hole for themselves; doing something that merely makes them unpopular won't deter nanny over here one jot. What really makes me shudder is when they bandy around "inappropriate" as if it was some cut and dried definition, rather than a catch all for "we don't like".

    As ever, I really really despair of life when Wacky Jackie gets her joyless mitts on this.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    to the Peoples Republic of Australia....

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    All this on the day they elect a new President of the World ^W USA

    Perhaps somebody thinks it's a good day to bury bad news?

    I just wonder if the governments of the world really want us all to be blind, deaf an dumb

    are we easier to control this way?

    Maybe the new sheriff will give em hell about it?

    To quote Blazing Sadles

    What do you mean he's a "Black Sheriff"

    Well you know what I mean

    Anon just in case!

  26. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Material "unsuitable for adults" ?!?

    What kind of nonsense is that ? There is no such thing.

    There is material that is unsavory, there is material that is downright disgusting, but there is no material that is "unsuitable".

    Not for an adult with proper education and a critical mind anyway.

    Now there is most definitely material that is "unsuitable" for certain governments, that is something that we can see every day. There is also material that is "unsuitable" for certain people with limited minds, but how those kind of people find themselves in positions of power in a functioning democracy is beyond me.

    There is, however, no excuse for imposing content filtering on adults in what is supposed to be a democratic country, and Australia, although apparently a bit south of reason, is still a democracy and a free country.

    Shame on the aussie government for once again putting a minority agenda item on top of the list of country-wide preoccupations.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Well its been nice communicating with you.

    A bit slow on the up take on this story,21985,24568137-2862,00.html

    But it still just seems to be another peg in the long run up, in which the internet will be pay-per-view subscription service where you will subscribe to certain websites for a monthly fee and any other website you will be charged extra for.

    So you wont be exploring new sites, anyone who wants to voice anything can, but no one will know about it as no one is going to pay to read about it - so its basically the end of free speech and expression on the internet, and back to the large media companies & governments controlling what we see and hear. And all in the name of protecting the children and fighting terrorists etc etc.. just to get you on board with it.

    *\. Time to get your coat, its £4.50 to view this message - so its back to local networks and fairs for you geeks. This be a site for rich people - away with your peasant'ness (ok I made that word up)

  28. Simon

    Hidden motives?

    We know that Australia is a more than happy member of the "Coalition of the Willing", cosying up to USA and UK political interests.

    Blanket censorship of the internet is a key goal of the folks in charge (the people behind the people in government). The internet is too powerful a tool to be left uncontrolled. Left unencumbered, who knows what we might do with it..... We might actually demand some honest politics, the dismissal of all investment bankers or even perhaps a revolution.

    Can't have that!!! Not if you need to keep iron control over the poor taxpayers. How else will they get away with bombing countries, centralising monetary control and abolishing national borders?

    They SAY it's "for the children", in the same way that the Nazis were only after the Jews, until they decided they wanted to kill pretty much anyone who didn't have blonde hair and blue eyes.

    They bombard children with crap all day long everywhere else. There are pictures of practically naked people everywhere you look. In California, they've been giving kids in kindergarden "pledge cards" not to discriminate against the LGBT community (because of course, no-one ever discriminates against heterosexuals....)

    Local authorities want to start teaching 5 year-olds about sex education and gay sex apparently. At the same time, governments want to PROTECT children?

    This is the start of a very slippery slope.

  29. bob_blah
    Thumb Up

    Australia crowned again!

    As an expat Australian I'm very proud that my country has regained its jesters hat for being the Global Village Idiot.

    Just as the previous Liberal Government's legislation that criminalised the posting of 'X'-rated or 'unclassified' (illegal) content proved the censorship white elephant that it is, so too will the new Labour Government's content filtering system.

    As Flocke Kroes pointed out above: if people actually cared that much about this issue, ISP's would be providing this as a paid-for service.

    'Think of the children?' Yes, think of the children - let them grow up to be rational, responsible individuals who aren't dependant upon the State to tell them what's right and wrong.

  30. Christoph

    Since when do they care about the children?

    It's not about 'porn' at all. It's about control. Governments hate the idea that we can read whatever we like on the net, that we can find out about their lies and blunders. Porn and terrorism are just the current excuses - as soon as those wear out they will have others, just as they always do.

    Oh, and @Haku - it's "standing up in a hammock".

  31. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    @ Bastard Sheep

    How about the "Great Internet Barrier Reef"?

  32. dervheid

    "although to be honest, we need to understand better what the government is actually proposing."

    Two Words;

    State Censorship.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Why not filter?

    @ paul clarke

    But define child pornography;

    Does that include photos of new born sent to Granny so that she can see the new arrival, does it include medical records or educational health sites or even photographs of 17 year olds that they have taken of themselves and sent to their own email addresses. It does for some filtering software, stupid polititions, religious freaks, lawyers and judges.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Few more things on the Australian Manifesto

    1) A return to good old witch burning.

    2) Set out an expedition to prove the world is flat.

    3) Free mud so everyone can have affordable housing.

    4) Transport all our criminals to the mysterious and recently colonised territory the UK.

    5) All women to wear ankle length dresses even if it is 110 in the shade.

    6) To make Robert Mugabe an Australian citizen

  35. druck Silver badge

    Re: Why not filter

    "The more that the ISPs can do to restrict the delivery of child pornography and other illicit material the better."

    And what stunted zealot gets to decide on the definition "other illicit material"?

    Stay away from my internet Mr Paul Clarke, stay well away.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @ lIsRT

    "I guess now the stereotypical Tor user will be tinfoil-hat-wearing, terrorist-attack-planning, CP-trading *AND* Australian."

    That'd be a tin-foil hat with tin-foil corks then?

    Mine's the Driza-Bone with a VPN in the pocket.

  37. Elrond Hubbard

    Like you didn't know they were morons

    A nation that voted for Rudd deserves all it gets.

    Mine's the one with the bodyline manual in the pocket.

  38. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Extrordinary freedom

    You have gotta admit that the Internet is unusual. You don't get to write what you like in a newspaper, unless you own it. Or put stuff on TV even if you own the station. As for transmitting your own radio signal, the DTI will come round and steal your gear.

    On the Internet you can run your own website and post messages on others. You can look at anything anyone puts online. This is mindbogglingly amazing!! In 1993 I could hardly get my boggling mind round this fact. When I did I knew it could never last.

    However Internet freedom seems to not only have lasted but the freedom seems to be infecting other parts of life. The monitored and filtered media seem to be suffering under the competition from the Internet.

    The Internet was the biggest mistake 'they' ever made. It should have been made expensive and kept slow. Now they will have to switch every router in the world to some sort of IP.V6 filtering and only packets carrying a governent licence key will be approved for transit.

    Anyone caught sending a non-approved data packet will be tracked down and arrested for terror crimes.

    I think the freedom will continue but it will be illegal because criminals, terrorists and drug deallers will be associated with having freedom.

    The Jolly Roger is our new symbol of freedom.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Is that in the same context as 'extreme ironing' ?"

    When Channel 4 (I think) dramatised "the Buddha of suburbia" in the early '90s, they ran a warning before one episode that went:

    "This program contains scenes of nude housework"

    ... lest the innocent be offended by what turned out to be one character with a raher lush rug doing her ironing in the buff. Odd, cos there was no warning about the substantial amount of shagging.

  40. V

    VPNs to overseas servers

    Of course anyone moderately technical with naughty surfing habits will simply buy a VPN link into an ISP abroad, and go onto the net from that. (... as all the expats do to get the BBC iPlayer and so on...)

    So it is pretty pointless....

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong approach

    A completely flawed approach.

    Why make everyone suffer for the sake a few children? The way to deal with this is to create a list of certified websites, that have been vetted as being safe for children.

    And then install a kiddies web browser that will only access certified sites. Then it's up the the adults to lock down the PC by creating a user account for their children to log in which doesn't give permissions to install their own software.

    So it means teaching parents how to created restricted user accounts...and if they're really interested in protecting their kids then they should damn well learn how to do it.

    Thus the approach is, leave the internet well alone, and limit the part of the web the kids can see. After all, it's only the kids that we need to protect, so why mess things up for everyone?

  42. GettinSadda


    First, they filtered the child porn,

    and I did not speak up, because that sort of thing is repulsive and should be removed;

    Next, they filtered the terrorist-training material,

    and I did not speak up, because the fewer terrorists in this world the better;

    Next, they filtered the extreme porn,

    and I did not speak up, because that is obviously too nasty to let through;

    Then, they filtered the holocaust denial,

    and I did not speak up, because such things are fuel for fascists;

    Then, they filtered "incitement to violence",

    and I did not speak up, because violence is bad and inciting it must also be bad;

    Then, they filtered gay porn,

    and I did not speak up, because that is not the sort of thing is I want my kids seeing;

    Then, they filtered all porn,

    and I did not speak up, because that would be like admitting I'm a pervert;

    And then they filtered "political dissent",

    now I tried to speak up, and found they had filtered me!

  43. fajensen Silver badge

    Fascists are everywhere!

    <i>The wider implications of the government having sufficient resources to carry out wholesale censorship just like China, Iran and North Korea seem to have escaped their attention.</i>

    No, those places are what got their appetite up for this technology.

    Think about it: A permanently happy population so devoted to their great leaders that they will spontaneously assemble into pixels showing the great deeds of the brave leader. No bad news in the media, EVER. Parades every Sunday in the governments honour, Access to all the bum you could ever want. Organ donations too. If one needs to shoot some dissenters err.. terrorists there will be no bombed wedding parties, no media backlash or criticism, just great boob-toobe vids of the courageous security forces fighting valiantly for freedom and democracy!

    Its every governments secret wet dream made reality.

    Where is Marinus van der Lubbe when you need him most?

  44. TMS9900

    Bring Back FidoNet

    A direct, dial-up end-to-end connection between you and your server, with the option to hop across to other 'networks' from there. The bulletin boards aren't centrally hosted, they're sitting in someone's basement with a load of 'phone lines.

    Lets see you censor that you bastards.

    Mine's the one with the Fido dog holding a floppy disk!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    who needs freedom of opinion when corporations need to pay off all the debt they generated in trying to control you!

  46. Josh

    IWF: Not 'feasible' or desirable?

    "However, the Internet Watch Foundation claims one reason that it is not interested in wholescale filtering is that this is just not technically feasible."

    Hmmm. Colour me a cynic, but one could also suggest that one huge reason the IWF (and others of their ilk) might not be too keen to see this kind of filtering is that it might further reduce their remit: already we know from their own report, that a tiny percentage of child porn originates in the UK (and that was a year ago), presumably leaving them little to do but to monitor overseas sites. With this kind of sledgehammer approach to net filtering, if successful managing to block out a huge swathe of troublesome content, surely it would mean the IWF and organisations like them would have even less to do?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think of the children

    Oh for ---'s sake.

    To protect children from alcohol, we keep them out of pubs, to protect them from matters carnal we ban them from sex shops, clubs, etc.

    So, to protect them from the internet we simply ban them from the internet.

    We don't shut the pubs, or the clubs, to protect the children (yet) so we shouldn't shut the internet.

    Perhaps a child-friendly "lightnet" (as opposed to darknet) could be set up where only the cuddly and fluffy are allowed. Of course, in some countries I've no doubt that would include public beheadings and the like so, perhaps, we just ban children.

  48. Lukin Brewer

    What to call this thing...

    How about "The Great Barrier Reef"? Or, since it is supposed to be a prophylactic against all sorts of naughtiness, how about "The Great Barrier Sheath"?

    And here is the provisional list of things it will block (based on a suggestion from the Philosophy Department at Wooloomaloo Uni).

    1. Homosexual material.

    2. Exposure of abuse of native peoples.

    3. Homosexual material.

    4. Teetotal advocation.

    5. Homosexual material.

    6. Intentionally left blank.

    7. Homosexual material.


    But seriously, it is down to parents to keep their children safe on the internet, just as it is down to them to enforce bedtimes. Just as we can buy or make baby gates to keep toddlers from falling down the stairs - we don't need government to follow us home after the birth and force them on us, or monitor us to make sure we keep them closed.

  49. Martin Silver badge

    It's all right to filter out material if it's minority interest?

    "What people need to appreciate here is that there is a minority of people who express an interest in the type of material being targeted for filtering. So why not filter it out?"

    So, if someone thinks something shouldn't be shown on the internet, and it's a minority interest, then let's filter it out.

    OK - suppose I'm working for the Australian government, and I really really dislike UK football. It's only a minority interest in Oz in any case, and it discourages people from playing good old Aussie Rules. And it encourages football hooliganism, which is violence. So, filter it out....

  50. jason
    Thumb Down

    Yeah right...

    If they care about what the kids are watching, why don't they care about their president helping out to kill thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, and showing that on the news?

    Isn't that a bad example to our children?

    This is all an excuse to "legally" spy on people. They were doing it secretly, now they want to do it legally.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Jacqui Smith

    I bet Jacqui "Stazi" Smith is making notes on this and rubbing her hands with glee.

    One step closer to making her dream of introducing 'crimethink' a reality.

  52. Watashi

    That is the sound of inevitability

    There is no way that this is NOT going to happen if Brown wins the next election for New Labour. So far since the new PM came in we've seen a more authoritarian attitude to "suspected" terrorists, to P2P file sharers, to those who use recreational drugs, those who look at extreme pron, those who work in the sex industry and those who work in strip clubs.

    Brown beleives that he has a right to tell people what they can and can't do, and a General Election victory will give him what he beleives is a mandate to do whatever he feels like doing in the name of the "common good". His view is the only view that matters.

  53. jon

    No chance

    There is no way this will ever get implemented. Apart from the technical insanity of the whole idea, it will be laughed out of the High Court. It may in fact give the court another opportunity to establish an implied right to free speech in the constitution.

    That said, Stephen Conroy should be publicly whipped for his monumental stupidity in even suggesting this nonsense.

  54. Dave

    @Suspicious Git

    Good point: the most offensive photo I have ever seen was sent over from America: an extremely newly born child, still covered in placenta or whatever.

    Apparently I was supposed to say 'How cute' or something like that, but if these laws make such things illegal I am all for it !

  55. michael

    what do you filter?

    when I got my first voderphone 3g data stick it said some content would be filtered till I proved I was an adult I thought ok I did not want to do "that" sort of browsing on the move(I have a fast adsl line at home for that) and when I tryed it I fpund they had filtered this site

    never did find out why

  56. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    @Wayland Sothcott

    Exactly! Reclaim the flag of "freedom from oppression", from the software and music ripper-offers! Claim back our right to free-thought from the repressive religious zealots, just like the free sea-faring Captains of old!

    You know exactly what's going on in those tiny government brains. Minister/Senator ABC gets a PC, has kids so tech friend advises he install a piece of "nanny" software, just to be sure nothing gets through. Brain-dead minister has great idea, supposing you could simply nail the nasty stuff at source, surely can't be difficult, I mean it works on one PC, so simply shove the internet through a load of PC's with this software on them! Everyone feels safer, I secure the religious and family vote, I look like a hero and I leave a safe and lasting legacy for future generations!

  57. Graham Marsden

    @Paul Clarke

    > To be honest, I think this is a great idea. I work in E-Safety

    Hmm, so no conflict of interest there, then?

    > with the help of government organisations such as CEOPs sites that deliver child pornography can be targeted more effectively.


    > What people need to appreciate here is that there is a minority of people who express an interest in the type of material being targeted for filtering. So why not filter it out.

    Of course! Perish the thought that the Majority shouldn't decide what the Minority are allowed to view.

    > The more that the ISPs can do to restrict the delivery of child pornography and other illicit material the better.

    Ah, and so we see the classic attempt to link child pornography with anything else that you don't like. This is exactly the same thing that the UK Government did when they published their "consultation" on so-called Extreme Pornography which made repeated and irrelevant references to CP.

    But who decides, Mr Clarke? What material would you define as "illicit"? What do you think is so unacceptable that people should not be allowed to view it just in case it might make them think about doing something nasty? Fifty years ago it was gay porn. Now it's "extreme porn". Why do you think your personal tastes should decide what others can or cannot view?

    Why should ALL adults be treated as children because some parents are incapable of monitoring what their children do on the net?

  58. Dan S

    Moral panic

    I can envisage the UK government attempting something similarly draconian, and they will get support for it on the basis of protecting children.

    We don't normally do feminist gender theory on The Reg ;-) but it brings to mind Angela McRobbie's description of moral panic 'instill[ing] fear in people and [...] encouraging them to turn away from complexity [...] to adopt a gung-ho “something must be done about it” attitude’. In the midst of a moral panic rational discussion becomes impossible, and anyone querying censorship can be beaten over the head for supporting child pornography, terrorism or whatever.

  59. John Savard Silver badge

    Australia's Been in the News Before

    I remember some years back a news story about how multi-user dungeons were banned from the Australian Internet because of bandwidth concerns. Since they're connected to the rest of the world only by a few undersea cables, this may be why it's easy for politicians to propose restricting frivolous uses of the Internet there.

  60. Andrew Culpeck
    Thumb Up

    Bend Over...

    ...and prepare to take it up the a........

    You can tell when a politition is lying, there lips are moving.

    Ofcoause tjhis wont work, but thats the point. Once the government is commited to it the company will there hands in the till taking tax payers money, then they can keep comiing back for more to "fix" the system.

  61. Anonymous Coward

    Wake Up, Free Speech, Eat Me B*tch

    Are we all looking forward to the WWD (World Wide Dictatorship). £$€£$€.

    Mods quick, remove my post, i must be a terrorist!

    Oh no, i've really done it now saying terrorist.

    What about poo, can i say poo?

    Sorry mummy.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First they came for the...

    "What people need to appreciate here is that there is a minority of people who express an interest in the type of material being targeted for filtering. So why not filter it out?"

    Pastor Niemoller's little homily applies. There are many minorities; generally they are granted protection from the majority, in forward-thinking jurisdictions.

    Who decides what is and is not blocked? Why do they have the right to proscribe access to legal material, because, make no mistake, they will, whether by design or by accident. And it doesn't pay to trust Governments not to make the odd little extra inclusion on the list, especially if they can blame it on "the heuristics".

  63. TJ


    ..for vendetta Anyone? "We know whats best for you, so you must comply, or else we shoot you"

    I don't even know, Doesn't the populous get to vote on this sort of thing in Kangaroo land?Or is it left entirely up to the suits?

    Pirate, because the obvious, Yargg!

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good Game

    This is my favorite kind of scheme which only fall to 2 objections.

    1. Is that it will cost wheelbarrows of money to implement. If the Rudd government needs advice about where to shovel bundles of cash they can visit any hospital in Queensland.

    2. It won't work. Ever. And any computer literate person knows it.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re Why not filter/Paul Clarke

    "What people need to appreciate here is that there is a minority of people who express an interest in the type of material being targeted for filtering. So why not filter it out. The more that the ISPs can do to restrict the delivery of child pornography and other illicit material the better."

    Because if you establish the principle that minorities are perverts/terrorists/satanists/whatever then anyone in a minority becomes the next target. And before you start bleating about child porn - a bandwagon everyone jumps on in the hope of silencing argument - I am 100% against child abuse, child porn and it's viewing but I said when we passed a law making it illegal to possess an image of that, that once established, the principle would be extended rapidly, and it is with extreme porn, then porn, then page 3, then derogatory remarks about women/"insert favourite state approved minority". Then the "minority" of the people who disagree with the government we have 3 terms in the future had better watch out and make sure they only listen to, watch and read what the government of the day tells them, and they'd better not be in the minority that doesn't vote for them.

    Sometimes I despair that people have abandoned thinking for themselves in favour of clutching the coat tails of the state in the hope they will never be exposed to anything the state might deem to be bad. For all our sakes, just *think* for yourselves for once instead of repeating dross you once heard someone else say.

    Paris because her mental capacity far outweighs some posters here.

  66. Mahou Saru

    China's new service industry

    If China ever wants to break into services I am sure this is one area they have lots of expertise in...

  67. TMS9900

    Not so...


    1. Is that it will cost wheelbarrows of money to implement. If the Rudd government needs advice about where to shovel bundles of cash they can visit any hospital in Queensland.


    Why will it? China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all have filtered internet. The UAE was filtering content 8 years ago.

    There's nothing new here... It's well understood technology, been around for donkeys years.

    That doesn't mean you should do it though...

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It will just end up all encrypted

    it is not such a bad thing, multi cores are coming in and a lot of the processors are being optimised for encryption.

    It will add an extra layer of complexity to things as well, keep the cowboys out of development.

    Proxies will become more prolific as well, another source of business, let them do what they like, the workarounds are already here. Some people may also get their own server, run all connection through that tunneled over SSH, so ISPs do better.

    That's the thing, the people advising this must know it will just increase revenues in their sector which should be fine by most of us.

  69. Anonymous Coward

    @ilago - thank you

    The "blacklist" is secret. There is no public or Parliamentary scrutiny of the "blacklist". The "blacklist" is exempt from Freedom of Information.

    For all the e-wankers out there worried about the children....this is precisely what is wrong with the whole idea. Censorship is NOT the job of the government or any secret orgainization...not on the internet, not for books, not for papers, not for pamphlets; really, not for anything (and don't start that nonsense about yelling "fire" in a theatre - that's where a little thing called "personal responsibility" comes into play). Censorship is a slippery slope best stayed off of for the basic freedoms center around open discourse.

    And here I am listening to "the harder they come, the harder they fall" apropos.

  70. Joe M

    I believe everything my Government tells me. Honest!

    The Australian psyche has always had an element of the Luddite in it which has clouded almost every significant decision about technology and communications in this country. This latest nonsense is quite predictable because it follows a long list of amazingly shortsighted and stupid decisions made by various Australian governments in the past. I started compiling the list but even a short sample is too long to include here.

    But here is a good example. A country of twenty odd million people decided to introduce cable TV (very late of course) by rolling out not one but two parallel, competing and incredibly expensive networks – along with a satellite operator at the same time. The population level can barely support a single network and of course the players have never made any money. Needless to say the service is merde with a capital M. Nutty as a fruitcake.

    For those of us who had hoped that the new government would bring a breath of fresh air and would herald a new dawn of honest, intelligent and caring public discourse - the sun is up and we are awake. What we have is just another bunch of stupid, lying, devious politicians.

  71. pondscum

    As a parent...

    I monitor what sites my children visit, and if they attempt to visit a site 'not suitable' for them, I mark the site with a clip. A clip round the ears. They are my kids, so I and I alone will decide what I want them to see.

  72. martinX

    It's all illegal content

    The problem with filtering out "illegal material" here in Oz is that every form of pr0n is illegal. Read that again: Explicit willy in explicit taco (that's 'explicit' as in 'obvious', not extreme)is rated X and is only available for purchase in the territories, not the rest of Australia. Therefore, filtering 'illegal material' would result in wiping out half the net. Mind you, it would be an interesting experiment...

  73. Pierre

    Calm down crowd!

    Stop ranting guys (and being a dick, Paul Clark), for I have news of great interest (to you). There is no feckin' way the Aussie guys in blue can catch a single paedo-terro-wuteva with this (s)tool. All that they will get in is a handful of camera-owning /pater/ /familias/ and uncles carrying pics of their relatives. And going to Australia. I reckon that would be a small minority of El Reg's readership. And if it's a small minority, well, we can stomp on their rights. They shouldn't be allowed to live, in the first place. Bend you head, sheeple! We twisted pervs will be safe. Behold the power of encryption! Also deleting and restoring a partition in the partition table in lightning fast. I wonder if the first-line untrained copper will wonder why I keep 7 TB of unformatted space on my hard drive. As for the LiveCD, if it doesn't detect deleted files, I very much doubt it will try to find ghost partitions. Now if you happen to be using exotic file systems, I bet you are six nines safe. And that's before you even consider encryption.

  74. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder...

    ... if stories about surrogacy are unsuitable for adults:,20867,20726132-2702,00.html

    And if we can't read them, how do we become better informed?

  75. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down

    Fail writ large

    Politicians + IT + Cash = Fail writ large

  76. Steve Brooks

    even if it was free, it wouldn't be popular!

    "If ISP level content filters were popular ... "

    The Australian Government tried giving away FREE filtering software, unfiortunately the 2% uptake of the free software didn't meet the governments expectations.

    So they decided to shaft us all, bastards!

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think

    If the material is SO bad and SO illegal, then why don't they get off their asses and arrest the son of a b******* responsible for it.? Instead of letting it hang around, and using it as an excuse to tell adults what they may and may not see, and thus try to make them 'good' 'moral' people with 'healthy' habits and interests.

    I very rarely, if ever look up anything that would be considered objectionable, but if people want smut, hell, if *I* want smut, I am an adult and I have the right to view the god damn material.

    Not to go to a video store in disguise and pay £20 for a DVD of porn (probably after showing my ID and having my name and address logged, fingerprints taken) that the government thinks is 'suitable' for my viewing. Suitable for adults? That the worst joke I've heard in my life.

    Suitable for adults is up to them. You give people a warning beforehand, and they do what they want. That's the beauty of being an adult.

    The extreme porn rule came about because ONE mother went out of her way to get it banned because her daughter was killed...and the killer just happened to like extreme porn.

    So instead of dealing with her grief properly, she needed something to blame.

    I'm sure the guy liked a whole bunch of normal films. Maybe he even liked Shrek. But are they blaming Shrek? No. Here's a thought: if media is soooo powerful, then why didn't watching things like Shrek, affect him in a good way? Undo the 'badness' from the extreme porn? Teach him lessons and make him all moral, because apparently all that is needed to change psychos thoughts and behaviour is to switch their extreme porn for some sweet cartoons.?

    Show Disney videos in Prisons all day long, and according to the government, tv is so powerful that they will turn into good people in no time due to the clear influence that tv has on adults who have finished developing.

  78. Andy Stewart
    Paris Hilton


    One ISP said it would be a "bugger to implement"

    ...sigh, you have to love straight talking Australian's, you'd never get that sort of honesty here in old blighty!

    Paris Hilton; because I wouldn't wanna bugger any of the other icons...!

  79. Doug Glass

    Embrace the Horror

    Significant control of some kind is just a matter time. If the issue is so important to all the posters here, maybe we need to get truly involved and not just stand on the sidelines and bitch.

  80. Alex Davidson


    A wise man (or woman; the quote is apparently anonymous) once said:

    "Whenever a politician starts talking about 'the children', keep one eye on your wallet and the other on your liberty."

    This project sounds like another multi-million-dollar boondoggle to me. No doubt the UK will try it too, and likewise it'll make no difference; The Almighty System will be worked around eventually, first by those who can DIThemselves and later by everyone who can download a browser plugin. Or use an anonymous proxy. Even college students can do that.

    Having worked with large government IT projects (of the UK variety, but I suspect that's a representative sample), I can confirm that they have very little, if anything, to do with the real world. Which is what you get when any bureaucracy sets out to use a technology it has no chance of understanding and ignores any advice which contradicts its wonderful utopian ideals involving people flying to work on personal pigs.

    The government should stick to governing, instead of messing around with people's lives. If our government spent less time trying to take responsibility away from people maybe there'd be fewer stupid people out there. But then, only a minority are going to vote for a government that requires the populace to think.

  81. Herby

    Been said before, but worth repeating...

    The net treats censorship as damage, and routes around it.

    So, it will never work (completely!). Why try.

    The proper place to protect "the children" is for parents to do the job. They should be the ones to "pull the plug". At the very minimum, they should be watching what "the children" are doing in front of the computer, and stop the "bad activity". Of course, this would be common sense, and governments are very poor at implementing that!

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: "Why Not Filter?"

    I have just returned from an extended trip to China. It's not as super-filtered as the Western press make out - but things are indeed filtered.

    What one person/government considers terrorist-endorsing material, extreme pornography, etc, another may think is acceptable. Which is the reason why having it out there, in my opinion, is acceptable.

    The trump child porn charge is often peddled, but in reality it would be better to tackle the high people up in the groups that instigate child sex abuse/trafficking than simply block all their content in one go; as far as I understand it pay-for-child-porn credit-card sites are rare, and the real money for these people is not the money, but the act of abusing children, which keeps them in close knit groups.

    China is a good example of how you can block events from people's minds, which is extremely dangerous and Orwellian. Remember the image of the man, with two shopping bags, one in each hand, stopping three tanks in Tiananmen(天安门广场) Square? Recently it was shown a large number of youngsters actually thought the image of that event was in fact just 'art' - not factual reality.

    It works for communism - putting in place the technology to block child pornography - which we all agree is a good thing - has the downside of enabling governments to start blocking what they "don't like" - and we all know in time that will definitely happen. Population control is necessary to avert disorder in society...

    If we want to become Chinese, let's go for it. Now where's those grasshoppers for breakfast...aha

  83. Andrew


    "That said, Stephen Conroy should be publicly whipped for his monumental stupidity in even suggesting this nonsense."

    ... but without photos appearing on the internet, presumably.

  84. Anonymous Coward

    Think of the children?

    Fuck 'em. They smell.

    There are just too many of other people's brats being used as some sort of valid reason to dictate what is permissible for my liking.

    You should need a licence. Clearly if parents can't exercise control of what their precious children end up viewing they are incompetent and as such their opinions are invalid.

    Next ...

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