From Australian IT today:
"INTERNET industry experts say the federal Government's bill requiring service providers to block access to overseas sites blacklisted by the federal police commissioner could inadvertently block access to popular sites such as Facebook and slow internet speeds to a snail's pace. Service providers fear internet blacklisting will prove difficult and expensive. The proposed legislation, introduced without notice into Parliament last week, also gives the commissioner powers to order take-downs of Australian sites related to terrorism and cyber-crime. The amendment allows federal police to notify the Australian Communications and Media Authority of banned websites, and the authority must then notify service providers. It anticipates ISPs will block access to offshore sites with filters and other technical means. Industry insiders say the only way a service provider could prevent users accessing banned material is by blocking the internet protocol address on the host server.
"Australia is only one tiny fraction of the global internet and there are numerous places where constitutional protections ensuring free speech mean all sorts of objectional stuff can be hosted, and at present there's no regime here actually requiring ISPs to block access to such sites," Internode carriage manager John Lindsay said. "If such a request were made, the most fine-grained way we could actually do it would be to block access to the IP address. That's the Chinese approach. They basically block by IP address. Now, if that IP address happened to be MySpace, or Facebook, that would have the effect of blocking everything from those sites."
According to an Ovum report to the communications department, many hosting services carry thousands of domains on a single published IP address. "Filtering based on IP address may result in overblocking of content that is not prohibited, but is located on the same address," Ovum said. The government is yet to release a NetAlert study on server-based internet filters: Accuracy, Broadband Performance Degradation and Some Effects on the User Experience, completed in May last year. A spokesman for Communications Minister Helen Coonan said the amendment would address "a gap" in the present legislation. "This is not really about censorship," he said. "We're talking about sites that are established by criminals to defraud people. If it's a domestic site where people are actively inciting crime or terrorism, the AFP will be investigating with a view to prosecution, and will also order its take-down. The blacklisting component is about overseas sites, where ISPs have no control over the content. Unless we get the co-operation of overseas police, we are unable to chase these cases. All we can do is notify them in a voluntary list for ISPs and filter providers to update."
Telstra, Optus, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, the Internet Industry Association and others are currently reviewing the legislation, which caught them by surprise. Electronic Frontiers Australia chair Dale Clapperton said the proposal had nothing to do with terrorism. "These laws will be open to massive abuses by the police," he said. "They could, for example, be used to prevent access to websites organising protest marches or rallies against the government, or advocating the legalisation of euthanasia. To the extent that it allows police to ban access to material discussing political matters, it is probably unconstitutional." ISP-based filtering was "a blunt instrument" that gave users no control over what material had been censored, Mr Clapperton said. "Unfortunately, filtering will not make the internet safe for children. If parents are deceived into thinking a filtered service is safe they will be less likely to supervise their children while they use the internet."
A requirement to provide filtered services would impose serious costs on local ISPs, while also exposing them to liability when "the filters inevitably fail" to block banned material, he said. Filtering were also likely to cause a reduction in internet speed. Microsoft internet safety regional director Julie Inman-Grant said the company was concerned to ensure it could provide its content services to consumers on substantially the same terms globally.
"Content, such as videos or our social networking site, Live Spaces, will be sitting on a server in the US that users from the around the world can access," she said. "We're concerned that there may be a website link to a service that is indeed hosted in Australia, that we would have no knowledge of. It would be very difficult to have the capacity to check every single link that is posted on a user's individual webpage." Internode's John Lindsay said ISPs fully supported the government's efforts to remove violence and child pornography, race hate and other objectional material from local sites, and would be happy to extend that to sites promoting terrorism. It's completely reasonable to require that sort of stuff to be taken down from web servers hosted and administered within Australia," he said. "That's something ISPs actually have some control over, and that has worked very well. But, as a technologist, I have to point out that blocking content from overseas is horrifically hard, if not impossible. In the past Australia had some capability to filter cached material, but technology had moved on, "he said. "Years ago, ISPs used web caching as a way of speeding up access to foreign internet sites by holding a copy of content on their servers. That provided a nice hook for a filter list for specific URLs. Today ISPs don't bother caching, because there's no longer any financial incentive to do so. The cost of international bandwidth has dropped and the rise of Web 2.0 content - user-generated content - means that more and more of what's on the web doesn't cache. If one user looks at something, the next user will see something different. Once you start building up enormous lists of things you want to block, the list gets endlessly larger even though the original content has gone." This would have the ultimate effect of slowing down internet performance. "You might have fast broadband, but you won't get any speed from it because there's a whole room of servers between you and the internet that are picking over everything to make sure you don't see anything objectionable," he said. "That would be a ludicrous joke."
A Ludicrous joke indeed. My connections to Commsec & IB are slow enough AS IT IS! Big Brother - eat yer heart out! Oh, but of course we need to be protected from the unknown *nasties* out there in Cyberland. Thank God our trusty guvment will protect us all and lead us to the truth and lightness... uh-oh ... THEY WERE WATCHING ME TYPE THIS! They're coming to take me awaa-a-a-a-y!