By Renai LeMay, ZDNet.com.au on June 28th, 2011
Australia’s peak internet industry body, Internet Industry Association, has stated that its fledgling child pornography filtering scheme was not a form of censorship but was more akin to internet service providers (ISPs) cooperating with law enforcement authorities, and should not be compared with the Federal Government’s mandatory filtering policy.
The scheme — first outlined in detail yesterday — is expected to see most of Australia’s major ISPs voluntarily block a list of sites containing child pornography compiled by international policing agency, Interpol, with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police. The legal instrument for the scheme to go ahead is section 313 of Australia’s Telecommunications Act, which allows law enforcement to make reasonable requests for assistance from ISPs.
The framework has already been agreed to by Telstra and Optus, and most of Australia’s other major ISPs are expected to fall in line and implement the Interpol blacklist over the next year.
In an interview yesterday, Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief executive Peter Coroneos, who retires from his role this week, denied the Interpol filter would see a form of censorship reach Australia’s internet sector. ‘This is not censorship; this is law enforcement cooperation around material which is illegal to possess,’ he said. ‘We’ve been at pains to try and distance this initiative from the government’s mandatory filtering scheme.’
Coroneos highlighted a number of key differences between the IIA’s policy and Labor’s filter policy. For starters, he said, no new technology would need to be implemented in ISPs’ networks to block the Interpol list, although both policies would see a ‘block page’ displayed when a user tried to access a banned site. Instead, ISPs’ network routing tables would block access to the sites directly, with a list of the banned sites to be provided by Interpol through the AFP to the ISPs.
Optus yesterday confirmed that its DNS servers would be modified to block the Interpol list of sites. The block would also apply to the telco’s wholesale customers if they are using Optus’ DNS servers.
Secondly, the Interpol list would contain a much more limited set of sites to be blocked than the Federal Government’s scheme would affect. The Interpol list only contains several hundred sites, representing the agency’s ‘worst of’ list of sites containing media depicting children younger than 13 years in ’sexually exploitative’ situations. The images must also be of real people — sites that contain computer-generated or other created images are not included.
The Federal Government’s list is believed to contain several thousand sites in a range of categories of material that have been refused classification — not just child pornography, for example, but pro-rape sites, bestiality and sites that promote crime.
Coroneos said child pornography stood apart from other categories of content in that it was ‘almost universally illegal’ and ‘beyond a question of taste and culture’. In his discussions with civil libertarians, he said child pornography had always been discussed as a separate category.
In addition, the executive said it was important that Interpol provided the blacklist, as it was only by having an international law enforcement agency administer such a list that ‘we can finally get over the idea that it’s only the Australian Government telling people what they can and can’t see’.
The executive pointed out that the Interpol list had been in use in other jurisdictions — in Europe, for example — for the best part of a decade. The Federal Government’s filter policy would see its own much larger list administered by a civil authority — the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) — instead of a law enforcement agency like Interpol.
There are also other important differences between the way the two blacklists are compiled and administered.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last year announced a series of transparency and accountability measures that would be added to the government’s filter policy, such as an annual review of the ACMA’s blacklist by an independent expert, clear avenues of appeal for classification decisions, and policies around how material would be added to the list. At the time, Conroy acknowledged that some sections of the community had expressed concern about whether the range of material currently included in the Refused Classification category correctly reflected current community standards.
In comparison, the administration of the Interpol list appears to be less transparent for civilians. If a site owner believes their site has been wrongfully classified on the Interpol list, they must contact Interpol directly through its website, or alternatively the Australian Federal Police, to seek a review.
The much larger blacklist administered by the ACMA is believed to have suffered false positives, with the websites of a Queensland dentist, a school tuckshop and a boarding kennel organisation for animals being listed in what appeared to be a leak of the list in 2009.
Coroneos was not able to say what legal instrument Australians would be able to use to appeal such decisions, although he noted that similar cases involving law enforcement under the Telecommunications Act, such as wrongful interception of telephone calls, could be handled under that existing legislation. There had been ‘no evidence’ over the previous seven years that the list had been operational of sites being wrongfully included on it, he said.
For a site to get on the list, it must be reviewed manually by at least two independent law enforcement agencies. While Coroneos said there was only ‘an infinitesimal risk’ that a site could be misclassified, he noted that if it became evident during the operation of the scheme that sites were being wrongfully blocked, then the IIA would commit to introducing further accountability measures.
The government’s policy has also been criticised in the past on the grounds that it doesn’t address the internet avenues where trading of most illegal material is believed to actually take place — through peer-to-peer file sharing, private forums and even virtual private network connections. Coroneos acknowledged the limitations of the IIA’s policy, but said the IIA’s code was about balance.
‘What we’re trying to do is strike a balance between trying to protect the victims of child abuse, freeing up police time and also having the content removed at the servers, where they’re being hosted internationally,’ he said.
The executive acknowledged the IIA didn’t currently have any evidence that Australians were accidentally browsing to the offensive sites containing child pornography. ‘I don’t have any evidence that it hasn’t occurred, either,’ he said. ‘We don’t position this as the primary reason that we’re doing it.’ The executive highlighted research that shows blocking broad exposure to offensive material was one factor in halting the development of child predators in society.
Asked what measures would be in place to stop the ISPs’ use of the Interpol blacklist from being extended by the government into a much wider filtering system blocking material in the Refused Classification category, Coroneos said such things would be up to the government.
‘There is nothing to stop the government passing any law on any subject matter, other than the parliamentary process itself,’ he said. Under current parliamentary numbers, the government appears unlikely to be able to get the filter policy across the line — with both the Coalition and the Greens having pledged to vote down the associated filter legislation if it was introduced.
‘We’re hopeful that when political parties see the efforts that industry parties are taking to address the most serious types of abuse, that this will remove a lot of the heat from the current political debate,’ said Coroneos.
By Renai LeMay, ZDNet.com.au on June 27th, 2011
The association representing Australia’s internet industry today claimed that 80 to 90 per cent of Australians would have their internet connections filtered for child pornography this year, following the release of an industry code in July that will focus on a blacklist of sites supplied by international policing agency, Interpol.
‘We anticipate that we will have ISPs [internet service providers] representing between 80 to 90 per cent of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year,’ said Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos in a statement today announcing the imminent finalisation of the code. Both Telstra and Optus have already signed up to support the effort.
Neither Coroneos nor other spokespeople from the IIA have been available today to clarify which ISPs have signed up so far to block Interpol’s list of sites.
The news follows the revelation on Saturday that Telstra was close to achieving internal executive sign-off for its own proposal to filter child pornography. The news represented the first time that the Interpol blacklist had been named in public as a filter focus for ISPs.
Previously, ISPs Telstra, Optus and Primus had proposed to filter a blacklist of child pornography sites developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The Interpol list is believed to have been in use for a number of years, with telcos such as BT, O2 and Virgin blocking access to URLs for some time. It is believed to be a more limited list, with tighter restrictions on how sites are listed, than the ACMA blacklist.
For a site to get onto the list, it is believed that law enforcement agencies in at least two separate jurisdictions have to validate the entry and must be illegal, not just objectionable. In addition, the age of children depicted through content on the sites must be younger than 13 years of age, or perceived to be less than 13.
Under the IIA’s scheme, ISPs which use the Interpol list to block access to child pornography would be doing so in accordance with what the IIA today dubbed ‘a legal request for assistance’ under Australia’s existing Telecommunications Act (section 313). Because of this, and unlike the wider mandatory filtering scheme, the IIA believes that no new legislation will be required to implement its Interpol-focused framework.
Those who attempt to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked, and users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme. Those who believe their site has been blocked unfairly will be able to complain to the Australian Federal Police or Interpol itself and ask for a review.
‘The current role of the ACMA in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue,’ the IIA said.
The IIA believes that a voluntary code focusing on Interpol will bring Australia into line with Scandinavia and Europe on prohibiting access to child pornography. ‘While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography, and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference,’ Coroneos said this morning.
However, it remains unclear to what extent Australia’s ISPs will actually implement the voluntary code promulgated by the IIA. The nation’s largest ISPs Telstra and Optus have already committed to filtering their traffic for child pornography, and both are now on board with the IIA’s policy.
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‘Optus can confirm that it will honour its commitment to block child sexual abuse material on the web,’ said Optus general manager of regulatory compliance Gary Smith in a statement this afternoon. ‘Optus will work with the AFP to implement the Interpol ‘Worst of’ list — an approach which blocks the worst of the worst child sexual abuse material.’
‘This is a safe, credible and tested approach which has been implemented in other countries with proven results. Optus will work with the IIA and other ISPs to develop a code based on the framework released today by the IIA.’
However, when asked about the issue, this morning both iiNet and Internode reiterated that they would comply with the law when it came to filtering content for their user base. ‘As always, Internode’s position is that it will continue to do what it is lawfully obliged to do,’ the ISP said.
‘Throughout the filtering debate, iiNet has maintained it would always cooperate with law enforcement agencies,’ iiNet said.
It is not clear yet whether iiNet and Internode will support the IIA model.
Primus, which had initially signed on to support the voluntary filter in mid-2010, has indicated that it is still considering whether to go ahead with the proposal. Other major ISPs such as TPG have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Australian Internet industry moves on blocking child pornography
Monday, 27 June 2011
The Internet Industry Association today announced the framework that would underpin its imminent code relating to child abuse materials.
The voluntary industry code of practice for ISPs in Australia would entail blocking child pornography sites which would otherwise be available to Australians. It would rely on a blocklist compiled and supplied by Interpol, in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’).
Consistent with industry commitments made almost 12 months ago to develop a voluntary industry program to block child abuse materials, the IIA announced the final elements of the scheme were moving into place in preparation for a launch of the code in July.
IIA member ISPs in Australia have confirmed their intentions to support a code based approach.
‘We anticipate that we will have ISPs representing between 80-90% of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year,’ said IIA’s chief executive Peter Coroneos.
Elements of the scheme
The scheme will be limited to child abuse sites supplied by Interpol
Interpol sets out the criteria for list inclusion as follows:
The children are real. Sites containing only computer generated, morphed, drawn or pseudo images are not included.
The ages of the children depicted in sexually exploitative situations are (or appear to be) younger than 13 years.
The abuses are considered by Interpol to be severe constituting the ‘worst of the worst’ activities involving children.
ISPs who block access to sites would be doing so in accordance with a legal request for assistance under Australia’s existing Telecommunications Act (section 313); no new laws will be required to implement this scheme
Browsers which have attempted to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked;
Because of the possibility of accidental access to blocked sites, users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme.
Accuracy and accountability
The list of sites is compiled on the basis of manual checks by police whose experience shows that child sexual abuse material is normally not co-hosted with legal material; it usually resides on specific domains created for the sole purpose of distributing the files. The domains have been reviewed and found to fulfill the above criteria by at least two independent agencies. Users who believe a page is incorrectly blocked can refer the request to AFP/Interpol for review. The current role of the ACMA in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue.
Expected outcomes from the scheme
Both industry and law enforcement agencies recognise that these measures will not stop all child abuse material distribution, but will still achieve a number of significant outcomes, including:
limiting ‘revictimisation’ of children whose images of abuse have been circulated online
freeing police resources for victim and criminal identification and deleting the material from the hosting service, rather than handling reports about the content itself
preventing accidental and unwanted exposure to child abuse materials, the possession of which is a criminal offence in most jurisdictions including Australia
making deliberate access to illegal web based material more difficult
bringing Australian into line with best practice internationally.
‘While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference’
‘We have considered the alternatives and have come to the view that a voluntary industry code by which ISPs agree to block child pornography sites once notified by the police is the best way forward.’
‘This move will bring Australia into alignment with Scandinavia and Europe.’
‘Our initiative will complement other work that individual companies and the IIA have developed to ensure the internet remains a safe and rewarding experience for all Australians.’
By Renai LeMay
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 15:40
Digital rights lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia has panned the efficacy of the Internet Industry Association’s planned industry-wide child pornography filter, describing it as ’security theatre’ that wouldn’t actually make much difference to the ability of police to enforce the law.
From: Australian IT
June 28, 2011 10:32AM
THE Australian Federal Police has started preparing its first ISP censorship notices under a voluntary internet filtering scheme targeting online child abuse material.
The voluntary filter program appeared to be in trouble late last week as Telstra wavered on the commitment it gave the federal government to support the scheme last July.
However, yesterday the carrier confirmed it would commit to a scheme to block a narrowly focused list of material maintained by Interpol and vetted by the AFP.
Optus also confirmed that it would comply with the scheme based on the Interpol list but that it would not start blocking sites until late July.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) also revealed a framework for an industry-wide scheme based on the Interpol list.
IIA chief Peter Coroneos said that the scheme would draw for the first time on provisions of the Telecommunications Act that, to date, have only been used for investigating terrorism and major crimes.
The AFP was preparing to notify ISPs of the list of sites containing child abuse material they would be asked to block under the voluntary scheme, Grant Edwards, investigations manager at the AFP’s High Tech Crime Operations said.
‘The AFP is in the process of issuing a number of ISPs under section 313 of Telecommunications Act 1997,’ Mr Edwards said in a statement yesterday.
Optus said it would honour its commitment to block the list.
‘This is a safe, credible and tested approach which has been implemented in other countries with proven results,’ a spokesman for Optus said.
‘The internet is now a primary channel for sharing child sexual abuse material and Telstra believes the telecommunications industry has a responsibility to do what it can to limit this distribution,’ a Telstra spokeswoman said.
However, ISPs including iiNet, Internode and Primus Telecom remained reticent about committing to the scheme.
iiNet regulatory chief Steve Dalby declined to comment on the scheme. Internode regulatory chief John Lindsay also declined to comment. Ravi Bhatia, chief of Primus Telecom, one of the original ISPs to enter discussions with government on the scheme, said he ‘more important things to think about.’
Privately some ISPs that have yet to register their support for the scheme said they still feared that the scope of the filter may widen.
Civil liberties groups said they were supportive of the government’s stance on blocking child pornography but feared an internet filtering scheme to be adopted by Australia’s two major carrier’s next month targeting child pornography will sweep online child sexual abuse problems under the rug.
Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines said he was concerned that the agencies directly enforcing child abuse laws would be ignored.
‘The production of this material and the abuse of children is ultimately a behavioural issue will not be addressed censorship. If the government is serious about cracking down on child pornography it needs to be diverting additional resources to police,’ Mr Vines said.
Bernadette McMenamin, chief executive of child protection advocacy Child Wise, said that the filter’s imperfections were not reason enough to criticise the scheme. ‘Ordinary Australians’ were not among the elite hackers that would be able to circumvent the filter she said.
‘You’ll always have savvy people who will get around filters. We’re never going to stop child pornography completely but we can reduce it,’ Ms McMenamin said.
By The Associated Press – 06.04.2011
BERLIN — Germany’s governing coalition says it will delete websites that feature child pornography, dropping a plan to attempt to block such sites.
The plan to block child porn sites was drawn up in 2009 by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first-term ‘grand coalition’ of right and left but never took effect.
Critics including the junior partners in the current government, the Free Democrats, argued that blocking the sites was ineffectual and raised concerns over Internet censorship.
Coalition leaders on Tuesday night agreed to change the government’s approach.
Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told Bavarian radio Wednesday that ‘blocking on the Internet is something that rightly causes rejection and distrust.’
She says deleting child porn sites is the ‘correct and effective’ approach.”
By Nicole Kobie
Posted on 4 Apr 2011 at 14:29
The High Court has awarded damages to a man wrongfully caught up in the Operation Ore child porn investigation.
Operation Ore kicked off in 1999 in the US, with a list of suspects accused of paying for access to a ‘child pornography’ site handed to UK police in 2002, leading to more than 1,400 prosecutions.
However, the evidence used to convict the accused paedophiles was flawed. Writing in PC Pro in 2005, computer expert and investigative journalist Duncan Campbell revealed that many of the accused were nothing more than victims of credit-card fraud.
British police were aware the evidence was flawed within months of starting the investigation, according to a new report published today on The Register.
Jeremy Clifford, now 51 from Watford, was one of thousands of people accused during the investigation, after his credit-card details were fraudulently used on the site in question. He was arrested in 2003.
Illicit images were found in the temporary internet files folder on his machine, but a police computer expert said at the time the thumbnail images could have been placed there without Clifford’s knowledge.
Despite the expert finding no evidence that Clifford ever downloaded child pornography, Hertfordshire Police still proceeded with the charges, which were eventually dropped.
The court awarded Clifford £20,000 in damages, while the police force faces up to hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs.
‘In my opinion it is an absolute disgrace that the police have been allowed to spend huge sums of public money recklessly and without apparent check or merit attacking Mr Clifford, in order to deflect from their own shortcomings,’ Andre Clovis of Tuckers Solicitors, told the The Telegraph.
‘This course of conduct caused costs to escalate. There appears to be no control mechanism over police spending in such circumstances, but this does not mean that the Chief Constable and his legal department should not be called to account for their actions.’
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: ‘Legal advice was taken beforehand and it was advised and expected that we had a reasonable chance of winning our case.’
Of the over 7,000 originally accused in the Operation Ore investigation, 3,744 people were arrested, 1,848 were charged, and 1,451 convicted. As many as 39 people committed suicide after being accused.
Exclusive Britain’s biggest ever computer crime investigation, Operation Ore, was flawed by a catalogue of ‘discrepancies, errors and uncertainties’, disclosed reports of two national police conferences seen by The Register reveal.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
A man wrongly accused in Britain’s largest ever child pornography investigation has won damages in the High Court after an eight-year legal battle.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
INTERNET SERVICE providers and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about efforts by An Garda Síochána to introduce a blocking system aimed at preventing Irish internet users accessing sites containing child pornography.
The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation has written to ISPs asking them to nominate a contact who could help implement such a system.
In the letter, Det Supt John McCann says members of An Garda Síochána will ‘investigate and identify those domains and sub-domains being used to distribute ‘child pornography’’ as defined under Irish law. When internet users try to access these sites the ISP is requested to display a special ‘Stop! page’, explaining the material requested is illegal under Irish law.
A copy of the letter seen by The Irish Times says the authorities will not seek information identifying ISP customers but they will seek information about other sites visited by these customers in an effort to identify other domains that may warrant being blocked.
The letter was sent last December 28th.
ISPs are concerned that this is a unilateral action by Garda with no legislative basis. At least one ISP has told the Garda that negotiation about the system should be done with a representative body such as telecoms group Alternative Operators in the Communications Market (Alto) or the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland rather than dealing with individual service providers.
The introduction of blocking lists in other jurisdictions has proven highly controversial. In 2009, WikiLeaks published details of the list of sites blocked in Australia. While it included sites containing images of child abuse, the list also included poker sites, WikiLeaks entries and the web pages for a Queensland dentist and dog-boarding kennel.
Last month, the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament voted down European Commission proposals on web blocking and voted instead for measures to tackle the production of child pornography.
‘We don’t support bilateral agreements with the Garda in advance of an EU directive on the matter which may be not be as draconian as this system,’ said Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto. ‘Such agreements may also detract from Ireland’s attractiveness for investments in the digital media sector.’
Solicitor and head of Digital Rights Ireland, TJ McIntyre, said studies had shown that this type of blocking was very easily evaded and failed to address the main concern, ‘which should be removing this material at source’.
‘This is an area where legislation is required, not a private agreement with no judicial oversight,’ said Mr McIntyre.
Some in the industry are concerned that if ISPs agree to block child pornography, they could subsequently be asked to block access to other types of material, such as that protected by copyright.
Despite legal efforts by the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma), only Eircom implements a ‘three strikes’ system where subscribers found to be repeatedly sharing copyrighted music are cut off from the internet.