No surprises: internet filtering test results show products block legitimate content

We said it would. Despite a cheery press release from Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that all is going well, an analysis of the actual test results shows that the tested filters slow connection speeds significantly (which means ISPs would have to increase capacity, the costs of which would be passed on to consumers) and have a false positives rate that would block at least 10,000 legitimate sites (and that’s for the best product result – most would block more). It gets worse:

None of the products could effectively filter instant messaging, streaming video, peer-to-peer file sharing like BitTorrent, newsgroups or newly-invented Internet protocols except by blocking them entirely. Let’s count them again. None.

How long will the Rudd government continue to pretend that having this cumbersome, costly and ineffective product shoved at us under an opt-out scheme is in any way a good idea?

Via Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy.

Categories: technology

Tags: , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. There’s also the issue of the search engine’s own filtering processes. I had reason recently to contact the Oral History Association of Australia, and googled their website. The filter was set to Safe. And yes, of course, the OHAA site came up as blocked. Presumably the Oral bit – the mind boggles.
    On the other hand, I wandered over to check out Cuil, the new search engine on the block. And was a trifle surprised to find a photo on view during a search, conducted with Safe On, that was a wee bit puzzling – goodness two men, goodness two men who are…well, suffice to say one would assume that Safe would have blocked this.
    As to when the Feds grow a brain concerning this…never let us underestimate the ability of political expediency to drive the adoption of unworkable pointless policies.

  2. Assumption: Accurate content-based filtering is much harder than spam email filtering to a similar degree of accuracy. The test was using blacklisted sites and was designed so it couldn’t fail.
    Fact: Spam email is a major cost to Australia, because it clogs up the network – and businesses have to filter it themselves – unfortunately about 80% (I’m not joking) of email coming into businesses is spam.
    Implication: ISP-level spam filters would do more to improve network speeds, and given what spam usually advertises, it’d probably be good for the so-called objectives of the filter.
    I think the real objective of the filter is that a government is seen to be doing something.

  3. Well if ISP’s offer cheaper plans to those who opt out what’s the problem? (tongue firmly in cheek here)
    Whadda mean “that would ensure the failure of the scheme”??
    I thought we were all into price signals these days?

  4. I don’t think unwanted content is going anywhere anytime soon. Also I think it is best filtered at the point where it is consumed. Because say parents have different needs than for instance a business.
    Therefor government should not spend public funds on it.
    Sids last blog post..Content internet filter software – censorware

  5. Exactly, Sid. Even if it was a technically effective solution at the ISP-level, it’s still a cumbersome imposition as a government-mandated opt-out system. The Australian Government’s existing NetAlert Program is an in-principle perfectly reasonable opt-in user-level filtering offer (the effectiveness of the actual filters offered has been questioned), and more from the government is officiously intrusive.
    An interesting little detour into the Scunthorpe problem – I found several businesses listed in a Lincolnshire business directory as located in Scunthorpe, but whose own websites don’t mention Scunthorpe anywhere, presumably in order that they are not blocked by simplistic filters. It must be a non-trivial consideration now for businesses in the region – do they need to obtain a PO box in a neighbouring town, just so that their own town’s name is not used in online directories that are going to be blocked?


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