Internet filtering a Success?

Minor ISP player Exetel is claiming success with its first Internet filtering trial – or have they spoken too soon

Exetel may be not one of the biggest players in the ISP market, but they are one of the first to claim success with the Internet filtering trial, according to curmudgeonly CEO John Linton.

In his blog Linton states that in the five-day trial his company had just finished, there were about “20,000 hits on the 198 URL’s” that were on the banned list of child pornography sights.

He was right to be glad it worked, and was very disappointed that so many Australians went onto the sites. And, as he pointed out, with Exetel only having one percent of the market, what would the true figure be if all the ISPs were able to get figures?

However, like a lot of trials, and the results thereof, there are some things that are missing. For a start, how many of those hits were unintentional (who hasn’t accidentally been directed to a porn site after doing a Google search on some totally unrelated manner?). There is no qualitative reasoning as to why people have visited these sites – social workers doing research, even the police trying to figure out who is visiting these sites. And of course, if you have accidentally hit such a site, you won’t know you have because the filter comes up and tells you it is a blocked site, so you could bumble off and do it again.

Linton says two of the main reasons the trial was taken up by Exetel was to find out if the filter caused a slow down in the Internet speed (it doesn’t, according to Linton), and will the government be able to convince other politicians and the public that it can trusted to put out a banned list that only includes child pornography (Linton believes the government has made the task difficult due to its subterfuge during its initial reasoning for having the trials)

Of course, paedophiles by their very nature are sneaky, underhand and conniving, and could probably find some way around the ban anyway, as Linton himself points out; “Of course the trial Exetel did… will not stop the mildly technically competent internet users availing themselves of the myriad of tools to use some form of remote proxy to access any list of blocked sites”.

Any right-thinking person will be glad that child pornography sites will no longer be available to be seen – whether purposefully or accidentally – but there are still a few questions that need answering before peoples’ fears of a Big Brother type environment have been allayed.