3News 17 Feb 2010 3:18p.m. By Liz Quilty
Many people have heard of other countries having web filtering, and even New Zealand recently had a protest about Section 92a with a decent amount of success.
But though the battle may have been won, the war is far from over. The DIA (Department of Internal Affairs) has gone ahead with content filtering despite the fact it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money, and it’s due to be launched at the end of next month.
Now many people get stuck on the ethics and morals of it, this is well talked about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; however let’s look at the technical aspects.
According to sources the cost of the software is $150,000, plus customisation costs.
Then there would be costs associated with getting the list of 7000 sites they have already, two years testing, and any ongoing maintenance.
The system will be overseen by a ‘Independent Reference Group’ made up of various people from law enforcement, welfare groups, Office of Film and Literature Classification, ISPs and internet users. This will all cost, and that money will come from the Tax Payers.
Now, most people have heard of torrenting and downloading movies, music, images illegally from the internet, they may even do it.
Some may have even heard of news groups and other similar things. Generally you get illegal things from various ways, usually using protocols that are not on webpages.
The same goes for child pornography. How many of you have ‘accidentally’ stumbled over child porn? honestly? And do you think paedophiles will stop abusing children just because they cant view web pages?
How the filtering works.
Going even slightly more technical again, the ISP has a list of IP addresses in which the websites are hosted on.
If you request a website that happens to be on the same server as child porn you get redirected through the URL filter to check that its not that actual website. This is transparent proxying, you don’t see it happen, you don’t know its happening without checking.
One failure of transparent proxying is that it does not work on HTTPS (e.g. secure web pages using SSL, TLS, etc). Therefore as soon as you have a webserver that requires https:// – usually ones with logins or taking credit cards, the entire thing is pointless. It just doesn’t work.
One option would be to block all https requests to those server IPs, but what if you were unlucky enough to run your ecommerce store on it, and used https on that particular IP?
What happens when they implement virtual hosting for SSL websites and multiple websites host an HTTPS on a single IP that also happens to have a child porn website on it?
Worse yet, what happens when a child porn site uses SSL because they require a credit card for paid content. It’s then no longer blocked. Not only this, but anonymous proxies are fairly well known and easy to setup to bypass any filtering, most students at schools are well versed on how to do this
Whilst the filtering may seem like nothing now, in a few years down the track perhaps they decide to block Islamic extremists, or something mild and acceptable, then slowly move that up the scale onto more unacceptable things, and eventually potentially we end up much like China blocking things like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and many many more that don’t agree with their policy.
Now onto the ethical side of things, whilst you may not want your children to view this accidentally, it’s not going to stop a paedophile from picking them up on clubpenguin. It’s not going to stop them from befriending them on stardoll, runescape, or any other site (which in all likelihood is where they will be more often). A lot of people seem to think this is what its’ going to do – stop people from stumbling upon it, it wont.
It’s designed to prevent would-be or curious people from hunting it up with a gentle warning. They don’t even log who goes to the site. Now I know by now a few people are saying “but it’s optional!” Which to ISP’s it is – however how about those people paying for it through taxes and aren’t even using it?
The debate has been fairly vocal, and most people are against.
People in New Zealand, its time to state your opinion.
You don’t need to agree with anyone elses, you just need to be heard.
Go out, tweet, blog, and Facebook.
For those in support of scrapping the filter, then go back to the black avatar on social networks, explain to people why.
For more facts, check out http://thomasbeagle.net/2009/07/09/nz-internet-filtering-faq/
For more go here.