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  • Michael Kubler
    November 16, 2008 - 12:46 am ·

    Wow, great posting Rodney.
    I agree. Filtering the Internet is NOT the way to ‘protect people against child pornography’.
    The problem is that anyone with the basic skills or will power can easily bypass the filtering, meaning that you would be hurting the majority of people for the sake of a minority, of whom you wouldn’t be really affecting at all.
    Another problem with such a filtering system, is that once it is in place, it is very VERY tempting to ban everything you don’t like. There is already talk about blocking overseas gambling sites, and mention of things like abortion, euthanasia, and from there it would only be another step to blocking anti-government sites, in which case we would be very much like China.

    You will never stop things like child pronography. As much as it is a vile, horrible thing, and I despise it, I know that those people who want to see it will always find a way. You can however make it harder for children (and office workers :P ) to stumble upon pornography, violence, and things that they either shouldn’t, or are not equipped to watch. As such the government should be pushing for things like the .xxx top level domain. Just like you’ve got a .com website, if the website was about pornography then it would be .xxx, which would make it easier for people to ignore, or at least consciously make a decision about before clicking a link.
    Of course, the government already provides free Net Nanny type software, which you can install on your computer to help protect your children when they are surfing the web. Although no form of filtering is 100% effective, and nothing is a replacement for proper parenting and education.

    As for the technical side of the filtering, this is more complicated.
    In China there is one main connection to the outside world. All traffic that goes through that connection gets filtered by a mass of computers. Even though their whole connection was setup right from the start to be filtered, the actual act of analysing all the data that goes through, and preventing some of it slows their speeds by over 50% of what it could be.

    Here in Australia things are even worse, as there is no central point with which to setup the filtering. While there are some main connection points from USA and Japan, each ISP is responsible for their own connections. This would mean that for each connection from the ISP to any other ISP would have to have a filtering device setup on each border router.
    Things get messy again as there are two different ways to filter. You can filter by IP address, somewhat equivalent to blocking all mail coming/going to someone’s address, or by the URL, which is more like opening each letter, and analysing the contents to see if it is coming from a ‘bad’ person.

    While blocking by IP address is faster, it has a LOT more collateral damage. For example, kublermdk.com, fernbyfilms.com, and over 20 other websites are all hosted on the same server with the same IP address. If one of those happens to have something bad that the government doesn’t like (for example, this comment), then if they blocked the IP address the server is using, they would prevent people accessing ANY of those websites. This sort of filtering is like using a nuclear bomb to kill a bird, there is a lot of other people that get hurt, and yet by simply using a proxy server (that is, by requesting the website from another server), anyone who wanted to view the ‘bad’ content would be able to, but the people legitimately trying to buy flowers for their loved one from one of the websites on the server would be blocked.

    The 2nd way of filtering, by URL is much more demanding on the actual computer(s) doing the filtering. They have to do what is called ‘deep packet inspection’, to check the actual website the person is trying to view, and ensure it isn’t on one of the lists. So while this might only block kublermdk.com, it would also mean that EVERYONEs Internet connection would be only ~40% of the current speed. For a country that is well know for it’s slow speed Internet, and that had been talking about ‘Fibre to the Node’ that was meant to speed everyones connection up, we seem to be taking a step backward.

    No matter how the Government wants to filter the Internet, the sheer act of doing so is a direct violation of Australian ethos.
    Let them start the filtering now, and no matter what the initial intent is, the end result is that we are letting other people choose what they want and don’t want us to see.

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