The proposed Australian Internet filter is causing quite a lot of controversy at the moment. Part of a package of measures designed to inspire citizens with confidence as they operate online, the ‘Cyber-Safety Plan’ includes proposals for filtering HTTP and HTTPs Internet traffic, ostensibly for the protection of minors.
However, up to now it was thought that the scheme would not be extended to other protocols and methods of online communication, such as those carried out via P2P. Today, however, that illusion is gone, as news surfaces BitTorrent will be targeted.
In a blog post entitled ‘Promoting a civil and confident society online’, Australian Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy responded to criticism from a user who posed this question: ‘Internet filtering won’t stop peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic—so why bother?’
The Government understands that ISP-level filtering is not a ’silver bullet’. We have always viewed ISP-level filtering as one part of a broader government initiative for protecting our children online.
Technology is improving all the time. Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial.
The filtering scheme has many dissenters, including the chief of one of Australia’s largest ISPs, iiNet, who called it ‘ridiculous‘, and branded Stephen Conroy ‘the worst Communications Minister we’ve had in the 15 years since the [Internet] industry has existed.’
Of course, no decent person wants minors exploited or to see evidence of such online, but as a user of BitTorrent for many years, I have never, ever, come across anything that remotely resembles such material. Although it would be naive to say that it does not exist, BitTorrent is probably one of the last ‘places’ online people would visit to gain such material and, as such, i’m hugely disappointed it is to be included in this filter.
However, filtering BitTorrent is not as easy as Mr Conroy might have us believe, as will quickly become apparent when the results of the live pilots come in.