ACS creates task force, UNSW to hold forum on Internet filtering

Controversial mandatory Internet filtering under the microscope again

Mandatory Internet filtering is under the microscope again

Mandatory Internet filtering is under the microscope again

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) and UNSW are assembling e-security and ISP filtering experts to examine the merits of the government’s proposed Internet content filtering scheme.

Senator Conroy’s proposal that ISPs provide a mandatory clean Internet feed to Australians will undergo a live trial over the Christmas period. The Federal Opposition and telco providers have rejected the controversial proposal, while the Greens have accused Conroy of misleading parliament over what other countries have trialed mandatory ISP level filtering.

The ACS announced today it has formed a new e-security task force to develop sound technical advice on the feasibility and governance of the various ISP filtering options being investigated, and policy positions of the ACS on the subject.

The task force will be lead by director of Information and Networked System Security Research, Professor Vijay Varadharajan. The ACS told ARN remaining task force members would be announced shortly.

“We are aware of ISP level filtering testing conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and the recent calls for tenders in the live pilot testing of ISP content filtering. We acknowledge that there have been strong industry views on these proposals,” Varadharahan said in a statement.

“We think it’s appropriate that industry and Government collaborate on initiatives to develop comprehensive but realistic options that protect Australian infrastructure, businesses and the public.”

ACS president, Kumar Parakala, said given the productivity and economic gains the national broadband network will deliver, it is crucial to ensure an e-security and filtering framework that fully harnesses its potential.

“With current filtering and e-security measures potentially reducing Internet access and accessibility speeds, it’s essential that Australia has a national e-security framework that reflects contemporary communication modes and contemporary work environments," Parakala said.

“The ACS will be looking to ensure that businesses and consumers are protected from online risks while fully harnessing the opportunities of an emerging digital economy.”

The task force will meet for the first time on November 26, a day before UNSW’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre is holding a forum on Senator Conroy's controversial Internet filtering and censorship proposals.

The day long event will examine the technical parameters of Internet filtering, the legal and societal framework, and what can be done to fight child pornography and to protect the interests of children online. Attendees include information security manager at Optus, Siva Sivasubramanian; Electronic Frontiers Association, Colin Jacobs; Systems Administrators Guild of Australia president, Donna Ashelford; former deputy director of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, Paul Hunt; digital forensics expert, Ajoy Ghosh; child rights advisor for Save the Children Australia, Holly Doel-Mackaway; and other legal and technical experts.

Executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre and chair of the forum, David Vaile, said the event was not about expressing black and white viewpoints on filtering by equating those for it with Chinese-like censorship or those against it with supporters of child pornography.

“I don’t want to express a view now and I don’t think anybody can because we don’t know enough about the mechanism. What I can express or flag that is worthwhile having a discussion about is some of the potential sources of risk – the fact that you’ve got a secret blacklist,” he said.

Vaile said there had been a lot of hysterical and simplistic arguments regarding the filtering coming from all sides, and he was more interested in encouraging a debate around the proliferation of inappropriate material online, the implications of various blocking options, the potential interests of children and the concerns of parents.

“What I do think though is that there are questions to be asked, and hopefully in a sensible and balanced way about the assumptions, the mechanisms, the potential effects, the risks, what is the international experience and whether there are alternatives to achieving the same end. I think those debates are all worthwhile having… you can’t do that when everyone is screaming at each other.”

The UNSW forum is free and open to all to attend.

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