The Damnation of Senator Lundy
Thursday December 31st 2009, 7:31 pm

While in opposition under the HoWARd regime, Kate Lundy served as Shadow Minister for Information Technology and Sport. At the time, she made her views on mandatory internet filtering well known. In 2003, Lundy said:

Independent experts continue to expose flaws in filter technology. A 2001 CSIRO report found that, despite improvements in filtering technology over the years, there is no filter that is 100 per cent effective in keeping out all undesirable material without simultaneously blocking acceptable content.

Even the regulatory body responsible, the Australian Broadcasting Authority, acknowledged in relation to filter technology that none of the products currently available meet users’ expectations with regard to blocking accuracy, useability and system performance. Therefore, the suggestion that the entire Internet should be filtered is unrealistic and inappropriate.

Unfortunately, such a short memory regarding the debate in 1999 about Internet content has led the coalition to already offer support for greater censorship by actively considering proposals for unworkable, quick fixes that involve filtering the Internet at the ISP level.

Let us be clear about this: this would mean that all Internet content available to Australians would be prefiltered by ISPs in accordance with the standards of censorship preferred by the coalition government. This ridiculous proposition is made even more absurd when the weaknesses of filtering technology at this level effectively ensure that it would not work anyway.

In 2009, now government Senator Lundy said:

Finally, I want to be very clear that ultimately, as  a Senator in the Labor Government I will be bound by Labor Caucus’ position on the matter. I remain supportive of Minister Conroy and will work closely with him to reach the best possible outcome.

Senator Lundy, meet Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles, Senator Lundy.

Hell of a way to keep a job, ma’am.

-weez



Security by obscurity – and why filtering the internet is a waste of time
Thursday December 31st 2009, 4:17 am

Stuart Anderson’s comments on Kate Lundy’s blog item, Further thoughts on the filter, merit preservation in their entirety:

The biggest problem with listing banned internet content, and then disclosing which exact content you have banned, is that circumvention of the filter is trivial. You then effectively have a publicly index of banned content, which people can go straight to. If you are in the business of being a censor, this is clearly an undesirable outcome.

If you don’t disclose your blocklist, then at least people who are circumventing the filter don’t have an index to the content that you consider so objectionable (they just have the entire internet. Whoops).

The problem of course, is that security through obscurity is a terrible strategy. The list has already been leaked, and it will be leaked again without question. The Government might have a remote chance of ensuring their own internal security, but good luck on all the censorware vendors, all the ISP’s, ACMA, the classification board, and the rest of the hands this must by necessity pass through.

Regardless of the official position the Government takes, the simple fact is that for all intents and purposes the list is already public. It’s still on Wikileaks (and “wikileaks australia blacklist” is the second autocomplete in Google’s search box, with over 1 million results. What does that tell you?).

As a (scant) face saving measure (and as demonstrated by Conroy during the earlier leak), if you don’t disclose the list you at least have the possibility of denial. “No, no, no, this isn’t the real list – we don’t arbitrarily ban dentists and tuckshops”. We all know it was the bona fide list, and that it was full of bad data. However, you’ll sooner get Conroy to erect an altar to the Liberal party in his office than admit the list is genuine. Politicians seem to prefer being worldwide laughing stocks to taking ownership of their own problems – I have no idea why that is.

Some other issues with disclosure:

* You must be accountable – the Government was (quite rightly) pilloried for obvious mistakes and deliberate acts of political censorship on the list. If people see a list, they’ll want to know why you’ve banned a particular thing, and they’ll argue with you about it. The only thing the Government gets from disclosing the list is more grief.

* People can reverse engineer the ACMA complaints process (and the filtering mechanism itself). By submitting sites, and then seeing what makes the list and what doesn’t, you can learn exactly what sets them off and what kind of things they ignore. By having a known dataset that the filter blocks you could easily DDOS it (and I’m sure there are a whole bunch of other nasty things that a list would make easier to do).

* The hypothetical scenario where the filter is 100% effective makes releasing the list pointless. A list that cannot be checked is as good as a list you cannot access. Acting like this is a valid scenario in the real world is pointless – it cannot possibly occur any more than a 0% effective filter can in the real world.

So in short, they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

We don’t need an accountability mechanism for the filter, because we don’t need the filter. Bolting a bureaucratic system of disclosure and appeals to it is utterly pointless when the fundamental idea of internet censorship is flawed. Lending the idea of censorship credence by seriously discussing accountability in the system is counter productive – there is simply no way this system can work, or be fair and accountable. It’s just not possible, not technically and not even in principle.



The Rudd & Conroy internet censorship conjob: It ain’t about the children
Wednesday December 30th 2009, 4:43 am

Irene Graham at Libertus has written a comprehensive breakdown of Labor’s internet censorship plans, inclusive of the differences between Labor’s 2007 platform statement and the proposed legislation.

At every opportunity to date, Conroy has bleated the ‘child porn’ and ‘child protection’ excuses for implementing censorship, when in fact, the planned censorship scheme will do absolutely nothing to address either. The filter will only be able to block an infinitesimally small number of WWW sites, whilst allowing all peer-to-peer traffic to move unabated, the latter being known by law enforcement as the primary mode used by paedophiles for traffic in child porn. Neither will the filter stop paedophiles from grooming children for sexual access via chatrooms, Facebook, etc.

Another claimed aim of the filter was to protect children from ‘inadvertent exposure’ to ‘RC’ material. In 16+ years of using the internet, nothing has ever ‘inadvertently’ popped up on my screen. If ever I’ve found anything about anything, it’s because I was looking for it. And anyone looking for something which is blocked by the Great Firewall of Australia will circumvent the filter if they feel like it. Can we please have some real, independently replicatable data about how many children actually are ‘inadvertently exposed’ to ‘RC’ material and what demonstrable harms such exposures cause?

The Enex test results make it plain that if anyone wants to circumvent the filter, they can. It’s trivial to do so. However, the wording of the test results misrepresents who will be able to do so. The report asserts that ‘technically competent’ users will be able to bypass the filter. ‘Technically competent’ would include pretty much any 8-10 year old looking for porn, as well as (and especially) paedophiles looking for depictions of child sexual abuse.

Graham also busts Conroy’s claims of success based on the recently released Enex filter test results. Conroy’s latest lie is that filtering will slow internet access by ‘one seventieth of the blink of an eye,’ a completely meaningless figure, hardly a measurement. It’s unsurprising that when no parameters for success were determined before the so-called test commenced that Conroy would be able to make any claim he chose about the test results- and that’s what he’s doing. Naturally, Conroy claims the filter doesn’t slow anything down nor block anything it shouldn’t, both assertions being clearly false.

If indeed Rudd Labor’s ISP censorship plan was actually intended to protect children, Labor certainly would not choose the proposed plan, due to its demonstrable inefficacy. Parents who expect truth in the government’s claims of making the internet ‘safe’ for children, and who then, upon the implementation of a censorship system, allow them unsupervised access would appear to have a strong claim for damages against the government when the precious snowflakes encounter material which is not age appropriate.

Worst of all, the list of sites which will be blocked will be secret and unappealable. If the filter actually worked, there would be no reason to keep the list secret; the banned sites would be inaccessible. Sanctions based upon secret evidence much more closely resemble the behaviour of totalitarian regimes as are found in Iran, North Korea and China than they do of any free, liberal democracy, despite Conroy’s protestations that it’s unfair or reactionary to compare Australia to such places.

All as such, Labor’s censorship scheme is clearly not directed at ‘saving the children.’ So what exactly IS it directed at? Conroy’s certainly not being forthcoming about the real reasons for its existence. It is obviously directed at stopping adults from accessing information which the government does not want them to see. What doesn’t a government want you to see? Information which refutes their claims or which embarrasses them? Information which corrects government lies or which embarrasses the government not only should not be censored, but in many cases is protected under whistleblower statutes. Without going down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, it’s prima facie obvious that Conroy’s claims for the need for internet censorship don’t concur with reality.

The community of internet users have no need for censorship; moreover, the policy which Labor wishes to implement doesn’t match the policy which they took to the election in 2007. Labor thus have no mandate to enact mandatory internet censorship, no matter whether Kate Lundy (or her staffer Pia Waugh) thinks the community misunderstood the policy or not.

Sally forth if you like, Labor- but enacting mandatory censorship is ballot box poison.

-weez



Martin C: ‘Parents, the filter won’t work!’
Wednesday December 23rd 2009, 8:36 pm

This is an exceptionally well reasoned bit by Martin C, a frequent commenter on SMH story comments, as Martin has posted it on Senator Kate Lundy’s blog. Merits reposting everywhere it can be reposted! Print a copy of this for your non-wired friends and family- Martin really nails it in non-technical, non-dogmatic terms.

Martin C

Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I have been arguing about this internet censorship issue on [Senator Kate Lundy's] blogsite, and in each article the Herald runs (at least six so far, so it’s probably a bit unfair to say the media is ignoring the issue). The trouble is that we are winning every battle but making no impact on the war. The few people who come online to SUPPORT Senator Conroy’s censorship system know almost nothing about the internet, and they support the filter because they are completely unaware that the filter won’t work. I am sure they read our arguments about freedom and democracy as simply cover for “I want my porn”.

I hate to say it, but I believe we need to push more on “the filter won’t work” rather than on “this is a threat to our democracy”, and I say this as a person who has been posting regularly about it being a threat to our democracy. The sad truth is that we’re discovering that most people AREN’T motivated by threats to their democracy, because they’ve never considered the possibility of their democracy ever being under threat. Not from that nice Mr Conroy anyway … he’s a Christian! They will happily give the government the ability to secretly put whatever website it likes on the blacklist, because at heart they don’t see protecting democracy being something that THEY are responsible for: they see it as something the government is responsible for.

We need to show how hopeless the filter is. We need to make clear point-by-point examples of the type of material that Conroy’s censorship will attempt to remove and how it will fail to do so. I’ve drafted up a few points for discussion.

1. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop my child from accessing child pornography accidentally.
But actually:
It is virtually impossible to “accidentally” access child pornography. The people who make child porn are well aware it is illegal, and they cover their tracks as well as they can, to avoid going to jail. The idea that child porn is just hanging about on ordinary websites, or can be found by googling simple search terms is completely unfounded.

2. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop pedophiles accessing child porn.
But actually:
Websites are only one way of accessing information on the internet. There are many other ways, such as peer-to-peer/file transfer protocol(FTP) methods. These methods establish a direct connection between one machine on the internet (the pedophile’s) and another machine (the server with child porn on it). Senator Conroy’s filter will leave these types of connections completely unaffected. What percentage of pedophile material is transmitted by peer-to-peer/FTP compared to websites? Over 99.9%.

3. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop my child from deliberately going to porn sites.
But actually:
Senator Conroy has tested the filter with 1000 websites loaded in it. Later he says it might be expanded to 10,000. There are over a BILLION porn websites on the internet. Senator Conroy’s filter will prevent your child from accessing 0.001% of the porn. The other 99.999% will come through exactly as before. Your child will not even notice the difference. And at least a million porn sites are added to the internet each day. No amount of public servants, and no amount of concerned citizens can possible keep up with monitoring that flood of porn. To stop your child from accessing porn websites, you have to actually do some parenting.

4. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop other Australians from accessing porn.
But actually:
The same arguments shown above apply: 99.999% of the porn will still be available. In addition, Senator Conroy’s filter is ludicrously easy to circumvent. Accessing websites with “http” at the start can be changed to “https” which makes it a secure connection and will completely bypass the filter. In addition, anyone can get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which prevents external access (like from Senator Conroy’s filter) completely. And if you think VPNs should be done away with, you need to know that every bank, and pretty much every large company in the country has one: any organisation that needs to prevent people from tapping in on their information has to use a VPN. VPNs cost $5-10 a month.

5. You might think that:
Senator Conroy’s censorship bill will stop pedophiles from being able to “groom” my child for sexual purposes.
But actually:
Pedophiles “groom” children for sexual purposes through websites that CHILDREN hang around on: facebook, friend finder sites, chat sites. Not one of these sites will be affected by Senator Conroy’s censorship, because they are primarily sites for perfectly acceptable contact between children. To prevent grooming by pedophiles, you need to educate your child about the issue: you need to do some parenting instead of hoping that Senator Conroy’s filter will do it for you.

6. You might think that:
Senator Conroy and the Labor government are serious about eliminating pedophile activity in Australia.
But actually:
Introducing a filtering system that won’t work (for all the above reasons) will do nothing to curb pedophile activity in this country. Introducing a filtering system will alert pedophiles to the fact that the government can see what websites they go to, and will force them to use secure methods that defeat the filter AND police monitoring. Also, while the current government is spending 44 million dollars on this totally ineffective filtering system, it’s REDUCING the budget of the Federal Police’s child porn unit. Does that sound like they are serious about eliminating pedophile activity?

7. You might think that:
Even if the filter is that ineffective, surely something is better than doing nothing.
But actually:
Introducing an ineffective filter like Senator Conroy’s will help parents to lower their guard about how their children access the internet. They’ll believe they are safe because the filter is there, but the filter will be almost totally ineffective, so their children will be MORE at risk from child porn and pedophile activity. Also, the filtering system will enourage pedophiles to move to more secure methods of obtaining child porn, so they will be harder to catch. In addition, the money spent on this filter could have been used by the child porn unit to continue hunting down pedophiles.

8. You might think that:
You are doing some good for your child by supporting Senator Conroy’s filter.
But actually:
Senator Conroy’s filter will make things easier for pedophiles to hide from the law and will have virtually no other effect on their activities. It will not touch 99.999% of porn on the internet. It is ludicrously easy to circumvent and your child will need only a rudimentary knowledge of the internet to do so, or he will need to know one of the 90% of kids in his class who do have that knowledge. If you are serious about your child’s safety, you will oppose Senator Conroy’s utterly ineffective filtering system.



Mad, bad Sea Sheps stickin’ it to the Japanese whalers again
Wednesday December 23rd 2009, 2:33 pm

Go the Sheps

I’m not much of a shave the whales guy but DAMN I love to see the mad, bad Sea Sheps get up the nose of the Japanese government and whalers.

I’m not opposed to whaling because they’re so bloody adorable- I’m opposed because it’s unnecessary, wasteful and endangered species are part of the catch. Moreover, it’s almost impossible to humanely kill an animal the size of a city bus (or bigger).

Japanese whaling is plain old hunting for whale meat under a contrived subterfuge of ‘research.’ There’s almost no market for whale meat, much of it rots on the docks or is sold off for pet food. The hunt is wholly unprofitable; it is subsidised by the Japanese govt due to pressure from the whaling industry. Now the Japanese military are involved, attacking Sea Shepherd on the high seas.

And yeah, I like a good hunk of fire-kissed dead cow- but there’s a special place in hell for Japanese whalers and their government for supporting this wasteful folly.

How about the new Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil (formerly Earthrace)?  Mad Max on the Southern Ocean.

Go the Sheps. :)

-weez



Health Care Complaints Commission to investigate Meryl Dorey’s antivax group
Tuesday December 22nd 2009, 5:52 pm

The Northern Star reports:

Vaccination group investigation

Mel Mcmillan | 18th December 2009

THE Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and its founder, Meryl Dorey, are the subjects of an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.

The AVN is accused of ‘engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct with the intent of persuading parents not to vaccinate their children,’ by Ken McLeod, a member of a group known as Stop the AVN.

When Mr McLeod first filed his 20-page complaint in July it was unclear whether the AVN or Mrs Dorey would fall under the commission’s jurisdiction and complaints process, as neither were registered health-care providers.

However, the complaint was referred to the Health Commissioner, who decided an investigation should proceed.

Mr McLeod’s complaint lists instances in which he claims the AVN has provided false and misleading information about whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, the Gardasil vaccine and the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, MMR.

And while the commission may take several more months to complete itsinvestigation, the ABC last month released a statement to say that information supplied by Mrs Dorey which was broadcast on ABC Mid-North Coast local radio in September was found to be misleading.

The presenter of the morning program, on which Mrs Dorey and Lismore obstetrician Dr Chris Ingall were guests, referred to statistics supplied by Mrs Dorey.

The investigation found the use of these statistics, about whooping cough, was misleading as they were ‘drawn from different data sets and related to different groups of children’.

The statistics were also presented as vaccination rates for 1991, when they were, in fact, for 2001, the ABC said.

The broadcaster received two complaints about the statistics used during the segment.

The use of the data was found to be in breach of the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy and context in factual content.

[...] balance at Northern Star website

About time, especially when Dorey has been haunting the Dana McCaffery memorial group on Facebook. Witness intimidation, much?

Anti-vaccination is child abuse
. It’s ‘alternative medicine’ with a body count.

-weez



What censorship looks like
Monday December 21st 2009, 7:49 pm

Search Google.com for images from ‘Tiananmen Square protest 1989′ and you get this. Search the same on Google.cn and you get this.

Hat tip to OCAU.

-weez



Australia-wide protests against internet censorship – Jan 2010
Sunday December 20th 2009, 2:05 pm

UPDATE: Protests pushed back to 6 March 2010

Protest

Protests will be held Nation-wide in capital cities on the 30th of January, 2010.
Further details available here.

Date change to Saturday, 6th March 2010.

WHY SATURDAY?
- We want to change dates for all cities because a NATIONAL day of action is more effective.
- Very difficult to get media attention on a Sunday.
- Most of Perth and S.A are closed on a Sunday.
- More people are out on Saturday.
- Public transport is more frequent on a Saturday; thus easier to get places.

See also: Anti-Censorship Protest on Facebook



Rudd approves ISP level internet censorship
Tuesday December 15th 2009, 4:17 pm


Ding Ding and Dong Dong

Kevin Rudd has just committed political suicide.

In a move which puts Australia’s internet access on par with China and Iran, MANDATORY filtering is to be forced upon Aussie ‘net users by their ISPs.

Filtering at the ISP level is utterly trivial to circumvent with Tor or VPNs. Great biz opportunity for anyone who wants to set up a VPN service with a port in the USA…

Watch carefully over the next few days as the internet using community in Australia (most of us, that is…) explodes. Not even Mr 63% will survive the fury at the polls.

-weez

MORE: If there ever was any question that this is going to SERIOUSLY piss off the internet using Australian public, the fact that the DBDCE website is presently crashed tells you everything you need to know. Wait until a YouTube video makes the blacklist! The ISP censorship plan is detailed here, should the DBDCE site ever come back up… Until then, the censorware plan is mirrored here.

From the Enex report:

Other related findings

Telstra
While not a formal participant in the pilot, Telstra undertook its own testing of ISP filtering of a blacklist of up to 10,000 URLs using a ‘domain name server plus proxy server’ filtering solution. No customers were involved in the Telstra trial and testing was conducted using Telstra’s test environment (which is a replication of its network and used by Telstra for testing its products prior to  release). Telstra found that its filtering solution was 100 percent accurate at blocking a blacklist of 10,000 URLs. Telstra also found there was no discernible performance degradation.

No customers involved in the Telstra trial means no degradation, yep, got that.

Telstra did not test circumvention, because it considers that filtering can be circumvented by a technically competent user.

Yes, we all know that bypassing the censorware is utterly trivial. Makes sense that this is reason enough not to bother testing for performance degradation, because the bypassed route will always be faster. Wouldn’t wanna make the filter look bad, would we?

Telstra found its filtering solution was not effective in the case of non-web based protocols such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer or chat rooms. Enex confirms that this is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot.

As anti-censorship advocates have told Rudd & Conjob all along, ISP level censoring will not do a damn thing to stop the trade in child pornography (the last reason given for the censorship) as most of it moves via P2P. Clearly, not stopping CP via P2P must be the reason to filter http traffic!

Telstra reported that heavy traffic sites could overload its trial filtering solution if included in the filtering blacklist. This is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot.

Duh. Wait until the first YouTube file is filtered. KEEE-RASH!

Performance
Testing revealed that the three ISPs filtering only the ACMA blacklist had no noticeable performance degradation that could be attributed to the filter itself.

This is doubtless due to the fact that no content on high traffic sites like YouTube was filtered.The first time that YouTube makes the censorship list, the filtering system will absolutely crash and access times will skyrocket.

Circumvention

A technically competent user could, if they wished, circumvent the filtering technology.

The definition of ‘a technically competent user’ would be any 8-year-old who can search for and install Tor.

Testing was also undertaken against a list of content, prepared by Enex, considered to be innocuous and which should not be blocked by a filter. All participants experienced some level of over-blocking in this test (i.e. blocking of some legitimate URLs).

This is what anti-censorship advocates have said all along.

All filters blocked less than 3.4 percent of such content.

Apparently, 3.4% overblocking is acceptable to the Rudd censorship scheme. Google indexes over 1 TRILLION URLs. 3.4% is 34 BILLION unnecessarily blocked URLs.

Circumvention
Filtering of additional categories of content enabled ISPs to implement measures which made some common circumvention techniques difficult. For example, a third party website which hides the origin of  the requested content (proxy site) can be included in a wider list of URLs to be blocked.

Thusly, you can expect the government to try to block popular, publicly known proxy sites.

Costs
The cost to implement filtering of the ACMA blacklist and additional lists of content is influenced by a number of factors including:
• the nature of the filtering solution adopted;
• cost of the filtering hardware/software;
• the extent to which updates of the blacklist are automated;
• ISPs implementing ACMA blacklist-only filtering can expect minimal, if any,
customer service costs; and
• fees associated with commercially provided lists for maintaining up-to-date
URL lists and handling customer enquiries on filter settings.

You can also expect your internet service to cost more, for a filter no one needs nor wants.

I’m setting up my VPN now. Hope Rudd & Conroy enjoy sniffing my securely encrypted packets.

EVEN MORE: An SMH poll on the issue is running 96% against Rudd’s censorship system.

The Greens had better busy themselves finding candidates for all the Labor seats that Rudd’s giving up.



Bhang! Bhang! Ptweeeeee!
Saturday December 12th 2009, 3:37 am

What I wanna know is just how long does it take for a bhang lassi to wear off?

And has Tony-o been sharing with Barnababy J?

The Lieberal leadership is a lot like professional wrestling- when the ratings are down, they give them the mad & bad script… and mother, are they ever overacting the roles.

Hasn’t Annabel been doing a killer job at her new digs?! Walkley, Walkley, Walkley- and not just hosting them.

-weez