Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Conroy: if you MUST filter, do it efficiently

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-11-13

If Conroy was intent on filtering the relatively small amount of totally obnoxious material that travels over http/https standard ports (rather than the peer-to-peer filesharing and similar mechanisms) he should ponder the following.

  • Unless we Aussies have more criminal perverts per head than most other nations, the bulk of the toxic web content must come from overseas: or does he have some shocking information about a stain on our national character he doesn’t want to share?
  • Highly criminal web content could be treated like most other prohibited imports that are illegal in all civilized nations (e.g. illicit drugs and weapons), implying that the nation having the previous "hop" (either via Asia or across the Pacific to the US) has a duty to make best efforts under reasonable international treaties, developed by competent negotiation, to stop the criminal material before it even leaves the other state for Oz (and we’d have a reciprocal duty).
  • Stopping the material before it even heads to Australia (and bandwidth is slower here than the rest of the civilized world) would cause far less impact on the Australian network than squeezing it through a tight pipe once the data gets here.

In fact, if Steve’s boss Kev is such a welcome and respected jetsetter, and if the restrictions fall in line with international norms as Steve suggests, it should be a doddle for Kev to get InterPol and heads of government to stop any gross material crossing any borders apart from those countries too poor to have the infrastructure (and thus unlikely to be a major source of the problem).

Blocking this stuff closer to the point of origin means the world’s infrastructure performs better, and also would provide some assurance that the criteria used to block material would be managed responsibly and transparently, as no executive of an individual nation could twist those criteria for political purposes.

So, Conroy, please tell us why you have to clog up Australian infrastructure.  Is it because…

  1. The bulk of the threat over the non-peer-to-peer ports is from within Australia;
  2. The criteria you want to impose are widely at variance to what other countries want to do; or
  3. Australia’s diplomatic capability is too hopeless to manage a simple extension of controls of prohibited goods across borders.

Of course, I’m against mandatory universal filtering anyway, and think you’ll measure success by the amount of money you can claim to spending to solve a problem rather than by effectiveness… but if you must force a mandatory filter on us, with all the risks of false positives, at least do it efficiently by stopping the material as close as possible to the source.


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