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May 25, 2010

Conroy: We'll block 50,000 sites

In Senate Estimates last night, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy warned the Government would consider blocking up to 50,000 websites based on new filtering technology that may bec

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In Senate Estimates last night, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy warned the Government would consider blocking up to 50,000 websites based on new filtering technology that may become available in the future.

The Government’s net filter trials early last year had found there were substantial technical limitations with blocking any more than 10,000 sites using a blacklist-based approach.  In response to a question from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam about how the Government would implement a filter based on more than 10,000 blacklisted websites, Conroy boasted he has been told of filtering technology that could block “up to 50,000 sites”.

“Technology evolves,” Conroy declared, noting that the question was hypothetical.

Conroy had earlier used Estimates to launch a savage ten-minute attack on Google over its collection of wi-fi data as part of Street View photo collection.  Google has pointedly refused to cooperate with Conroy’s net filter plans.  Google’s assistance is necessary because the net filter trial found that a blacklist-based filtering approach breaks down on “high-traffic sites” like Youtube. Asked to define “high traffic sites”, Conroy said they were “popular sites”.  He later suggested one definition might be sites that have more than 10% of internet traffic.

However, when asked by Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher what he was actually doing about possible breaches of the Telecommunications Act by Google, Conroy said he thought the Privacy Commissioner was handling the issue.

Conroy later launched an attack on euthanasia websites, which he linked to the deaths of teenagers involved Nembutal, and on Facebook’s problems with privacy settings.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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40 comments

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40 thoughts on “Conroy: We’ll block 50,000 sites

  1. pary kate

    I absolutely agree with this policy. the international region has long had to organize an institution will not have a specific binding of the state and its accomplishment testament be to sovereignty idiot flow on hardwood flooring the Internet. develop a realties of international law that govern reservation concerning the sovereignty of organizations essentially.

  2. David Millan

    When a filter is on, other websites that may not fall onto this category might be also “banned” for no reason and set of criteria must be also clear, anyway, I think that idea would be along way off for the “50,000” websites as my website Personal Injury Lawyer Tampa might also fall under this.

  3. Deen Did

    Conroy is a Senator for Victoria … not sure if he is up for re-election … shame about no double dissolution. Perhaps a Victorian can enlighten. If he is then all Victorians must NOT vote the above the line box in voting Labor or preferencing Labor highly, but number the ballot, and put him as last as you can stomach. weight watcher soup

  4. Certsquare Green

    There should be a independent authority to control all this positively Testking 646-205 so that flow of negative material can be full topped in the society through this ChanelTestking 350-030.

  5. claire redfield

    Again, how do we know that this will not be abused and suppress views that are opposed to government policy? Will it be used against blogs and people’s opinions? Who will watch the watchers? How do we know this would not be hijacked by private enterprise and used as a tool to beat rivals? Those illegal stuff need to be taken off but isn’t it far better to cooperate with other governments and catch them? They will just find a way around this giving us a false sense of security. It’s like the Maginot line all over again. Storage Pods

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  7. alex work

    This type of censorship is only going to increase. Here in Canada there are some whispers about government offices blocking sites like twitter and facebook. Be interesting to see what happens. Get Motivated

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  10. jimmy ra

    The whole black list thing… it’s a bit of a zebra list given that a number of sites that really weren’t that black and that it will make no difference to people viewing these sites. serving a section 21 notice

  11. john alley

    I have seen many important issues these daystestking about the implementation of such good things. I could make use of this information to recall myself.ccent

  12. darren sy

    I think before blocking those sites, they should examine first what are issues arising thereto.
    darren @ naming your business

  13. Jack Collins

    I absolutely agree with this policy. the international community has long had to organize an organization will not have a specific binding of the state and its task will be to control information flow on the Internet. develop a realties of international law that govern questions concerning the control of organizations essentially. Thank jack @ buy term paper

  14. randy ortan

    I will be voting Liberal for the first time in my life. Testking 70-686 Abbott is useless, completely negative, and there is a constructive policy, but the maintenance of an open society, without government censorship is much more important than any political party. Testking 1Y0-A05

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  17. Bellistner

    why would Rudd et al want to implement technology that wold prove to be virtually negligible?

    Becuase they want to be seen doing ‘something’. And having begun ‘doing something’, mule-headed stubborness and pride (and the tongue-lashing they think they’ll get from the Opposition), they can’t back down. Push on regardless. It’s what Governments do.

  18. Dr Strangelove

    Will those 197,000 google hits for “bypass internet filter” be blacklisted as well?

    If the Liberals oppose it then the Liberal party is as un-liberal as the labor party are un-labour!

  19. Johnfromplanetearth

    Where am i living? China?

  20. jacksont

    Conroy and Labor are a joke but besides a handful of rogue MP’s the Liberals have not come out against the policy at all and Abbott will be falling over himself to get back into bed with the Australian Christian Lobby. At this stage the only party that is opposing this is the Greens, so that will be who i’m voting for at the next election!

  21. smaree

    Yesterday I completed my VCE oral presentation on this issue, my contention being that ‘Mandatory Internet filtering should not be implemented’.

    Over the course of my research I became increasingly perplexed at how anyone could possibly think mandatory filtering is really a viable idea in combatting the cesspool of peadophiles, violence and illegal activities that the Internet now apparently is.

    Not only will the filter not reach peer2peer networks, but it will easily bypassed by using a VPN (and if you don’t know how to do that, simply Google “bypass internet filter” and 197,000 results are returned, with either easy to download VPNs or tutorials on how to use them). The whole situation doesn’t seem make much sense, i mean, why would Rudd et al want to implement technology that wold prove to be virtually negligible? Unless of course, as many have said, this technology is really setting the foundations for further censorship in the future.

    There are already filters available to parents which enables they themsleves to filter the content their children view anyway; and if implemented, the filter will almost surely result in a lax attitude amongst parents in regard to monitering children’s Internet viewing, again defeating the purpose of the filter.

    I don’t know, the mind really boggles at this still being an an issue despite the multitude of backlash from the public, tech giants and so on.

    Oh, @harrybelbarry; The Australian Sex Patry(sexparty.org.au).

  22. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    One elephant in the NBN room is download (and upload) charges.

    Having an ultra-fast connection which enables you to download your monthly limit in five minutes will not be of much use. And I have yet to hear anyone suggest that the NBN will give us significanlty cheaper downloads.

  23. Angra

    A couple of tips which are not rocket science. How will the proposed national filter deal with this?

    Google have just rolled out an encrypted search option. People who want to use the more secure search option can type ‘https://www.google.com’ (note use https, not http) into their browser, scrambling the connection so the words and phrases they search on, and the results that Google displays, will be protected from interception.

    Also you can bypass a filter by using an anonymous proxy. Some are free, some subscription-based. Details provided by the SMH at this link –

    http://blogs.smh.com.au/gadgetsonthego/archives/2008/11/how_to_easily_bypass_australia.html

    Will the Government ban advice such as this, or maybe even block proxy sites by putting them on the blacklist?

  24. geomac

    I find this obsession with the filter hard to understand. What does concern me is the scope for sites that have nothing to do with sex of any kind to be included. Conroy makes motherhood statements about protecting children but does not address the secret blacklist or the way its compiled. Virtually any god botherer can complain about a site and it may end up on the list. What about if the Jewish lobby objects to an unbiased site reporting on the Gaza strip ? Will it go on the filter under the guise of terrorism. There are plenty of applications to monitor sites including the settings on browsers without a mandatory filter. This filter just goes against the concept of the net being a tool for information but more importantly free speech. Whoever the lobby group is that is pushing this bad policy they are not worth the angst Labor will get at the ballot box. If its Labor itself pushing this well thats not what I understood of their intentions prior to their election win. I just cannot see any merit it the concept. It even fails the intention of blocking kiddie porn because of peer to peer ( torrent ) applications. I favour the NBN but wonder if the right person is charge when I hear what he says about the filter.

  25. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    As I said before, Conroy is not a loose cannon on this.

    His censorship campaign is endorsed and supported by Rudd and his cabinet.

    Conroy will be up for re-election next time, so I agree that anyone voting Labor should vote below the box and put Conroy last in the Labor list (or, even better, keep your very last vote for him).

    And remember that the main voice against the filter are the Green senators. You can’t be sure how the Liberals will vote, but you can trust the Greens senators to vote against it.

  26. kevrenor

    Conroy is a Senator for Victoria … not sure if he is up for re-election … shame about no double dissolution. Perhaps a Victorian can enlighten. If he is then all Victorians must NOT vote the above the line box in voting Labor or preferencing Labor highly, but number the ballot, and put him as last as you can stomach.

  27. Josh

    The government has completely lost the plot with this. Dateline reported last Sunday that even wikileaks is on the blacklist because they published the blacklist.
    I’m left with no option but to hold my nose and preference the Liberal Party led by a Christian fundamentalist over the Labor party at the next federal election at this point. Not that I think the Liberal Party and it’s current leadership wouldn’t do the exact same thing but at least at the moment it’s not their policy or are they saying they’ll do it.

    Rudd needs to wake the hell up and send Conroy and his supporters to hell.

  28. Syd Walker

    In principle – and sold well – the National Broadband Network could be a real vote winner for the Rudd Government.

    But the very same people most likely to be enthused by the prospect are also most familiar with Conroy, his absurd Canutist polices on Internet censorship and his general clownish incompetence.

    I for one have no faith that Conroy is up to any part of his job – let alone overseeing the rollout of this very ambitious national infrastructure project.

    It’s one of those occasions when I hope I’m wrong, but fear not.

  29. democraties

    Mr Rudd and Mr Conroy, I voted for you last time but I did not give you a mandate for this level of censorship. Looks like a one term government!

  30. Socratease

    Conroy is nuts, but Google considers itself answerable to nobody. It acts first and thinks second … and then only if it is forced to.

  31. RationalityPlease

    I’ll be voting Liberal for the first time in my life. Abbott is useless, completely negative, and has no constructive policies, but the maintenance of an open society free from state censorship is far more important than any party politics.

  32. john

    @harrybelbarry

    I’m pretty sure there won’t be an electoral problem for SENATOR Conroy.

  33. Alex McKinnon

    Steady on Bernard, your title runs away with itself. From what you’ve reported, Conroy didn’t say “we’ll block 50,000 sites”, he said he knew of technology that could. I happen to agree with the assertion that Conroy is a bona fide megalomaniac, and he probably DOES want to ban 50,000+ sites, but there’s no point in letting ourselves getting carried away. Judge the man based on his actual craziness, of which there’s plenty to go round.

  34. Sancho

    Rudd and Conroy are obviously pandering to a particular collection of voters, so what scares me is that there are people out there in 2010 ignorant enough to believe that the filter is effective, desirable, and not a kick in the balls for free speech that risks snowballing in an unpleasantly Stasi manner.

  35. jules

    Conroy is a Senator.

    He doesn’t have a seat.

    (or a clue.)

  36. harrybelbarry

    Its up to the residents in CONroys seat to remove this idiot. Somebody should start a party on the basis of stopping this censorship.

  37. Michael Janek

    You can easily set filters on Firefox/IE7 etc, I have two sub 12 year olds and they are on the web after school and haven’t come across unsavoury sites.Conroy is an ideologue not too remote from those stone looking apparatchiks like one used to see on May day celebrations in the old Soviet Union.

  38. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Don’t just blame Conroy.

    Clearly Rudd and his cabinet are supporting this.

    Given that Conroy had been saying that it would only be certain pages on websites that would be blocked, it is an improvement that he seems now to be be admitting that whole websites will be banned. (I mean an improvement only in that at least Conroy is being honest.)

    When it comes to sex, we know that Conroy (and thus Rudd and his cabinet) at one stage wanted to ban all x-rated content.

    I’m sure that if the filter is implemented that more and more content will be banned. Whether this is done by including other ratings (like banning x-rated) or by adding more to what must be Refused Classification, only time will tell.

    If there is no appeal process, website owners (such as myself) will never know why their site has been banned, and will not even be given the option to remove the page or two that someone has decided is not allowed.

    Even Howard never went this far.

  39. kevrenor

    The man is an idiot. Rudd could probably get a couple % point poll surge just sacking the guy and killing his programme.

    What worries me though as a former public servant is what senior public servants are behind all these ideas?

  40. Cormanus

    When is Conroy going to put an end to this lunacy?

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