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Topic # 248316 19-Mar-2019 16:18
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Some threads discussing the recent blocking of access to websites containing objectionable material relating to the Christchurch mosque shooting have been locked by GZ mods.

 

I have discussed this with the mods and they have suggested that a single thread for discussing this issue be created and that the following article be used as the seed for discussion:

 

https://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?contentid=21992

 


This is an emotive subject for everyone and tensions are currently running high.  However, we are all adults here and I think we are capable of discussing these issues in a rational, respectful manner with the realisation that while we may not all be in agreement on all points, everyone should have the opportunity to express their views equally.

 

Therefore I ask that discussions in this thread be:
- Rational
- Respectful
- As clearly articulated as possible
- Free from personal attacks
- Free from racial or religious prejudice

 

This is a discussion about the issues around access to objectionable material and the Internet.  It is NOT a discussion about the specific events in Christchurch or possible motivations or reasons behind the attack.

 


As we live in a democratic country EVERYONE has a right to participate in civil discussions regarding issues affecting it.  Please be respectful of this universal right as you discuss these issues.


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698 posts

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  Reply # 2201887 19-Mar-2019 17:39
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As a point of clarification, I would like to reference the Films, Video and Publications Classification Act 1993, as this defines objectionable, specifically section 3.

 

I worked for several years on products delivering NNTP services. In that role I was occasionally exposed to questionable material. Fortunately, I never encountered anything on the more serious end of the scale, and I question where the law should draw the line. I have struggled with our definition of objectionable for some time, given the use of rather vague phrases such as "describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with" or "promotes or supports, or tends to promote or support".

 

I always felt the potential existed to abuse the legislation, and indeed we witnessed what I consider to be a gross abuse of the legislation in silencing Wicked Campers. I feel attempts to prosecute people for accessing videos of the Christchurch incident are intended to make an example of individuals and influence behaviour for future incidents. There was a significant vacuum of information which the video went a long way to filling (based on what I am told was in the video as I chose not to look for it).

 

I do not feel such use or distribution should meet the threshold for prosecution because in determining if a publication is objectionable, such factors as the "value, or importance that the publication has in relation to ... social, cultural, ... or other matters" and "any other relevant circumstances relating to the intended or likely use of the publication" (S3(4)) are meant to be taken in to consideration, and such consideration should be given on a case-by-case basis. Seeking and sharing information relating to a major news event is hardly the same as someone collecting and sharing films that depict explicit violence against real people.

 

I do not believe the onus is on content providers to censor the Internet. Yes, AI technologies exist that can identify video and sound. These technologies come with significant cost, aren't universally available, and their chances of identifying 'offending' live content are slim to none. The closest you can get is relying on people to report it and respond as soon as practicable.

 

The Internet is based on open standards and must never be polluted by political decisions or have proprietary technologies forced upon it. I see no reason why the big content providers should have different rules from everyone else, even if they do try to impose them on us (SPF, DKIM etc.).

 

[Mod edit (MF): breaking the Great Wall of Text into paragraphs]


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  Reply # 2201901 19-Mar-2019 17:48
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Glad to see this thread come up and be presented in the way it has been. I agree that we keep any current events completely irrelevant to the discussion around this.

I see that AI techniques have been spoken about in that article linked. Products like Microsoft Azure Content Moderator already offer "Machine-assisted content moderation APIs and human review tool for images, text, and videos". This is already in commercial use as per their site, seems to have a video screening aspect to look for adult content or even racy content. I wouldn't be surprised if that could be extended to videos of a hateful or abusive demeanor.

I personally have never been involved or looked into much related to creating new laws or what have you.
Can anyone outline where we can go to make sure that there is something done around this and if we can have input how we can go about it?




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  Reply # 2201905 19-Mar-2019 17:53
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This is by no means a simple issue - and as with most complex issues many different aspects get conflated.

 

In ideal circumstances I would say that freedom of information is one of those inalienable rights; whereby the erosion of such rights leads to a slippery slope which has the potential to do more harm than good.

 

I say this having been involved in the frontline of emergency services - both professional and volunteer - for over a decade and personally having really seen it all.

 

There's a subset of society - particularly the frontline emergency services and other - that have a perspective on life and society which is completely alien to most other people. Many have never even seen a dead body in their life. This is somewhat uncomfortable as for the citizenry of a democratic system to be expected to make informed decisions about the important issues of society they ought to be have awareness of what society is really like - not be sheltered from it.

 

I'm sure a live stream of child abuse, domestic violence etc going on in NZ right now to a billboard in Queen Street would result in immediate reaction of the public and authorities - however as it stands now "out of sight, out of mind".

 

However the reality is that people are impressionable, vulnerable and quick to rash emotion (a dangerous line of reasoning I know) so some level of "censorship" is probably necessary.


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  Reply # 2201906 19-Mar-2019 17:54
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If folks want to view objectionable material there are avenues for that, however the internet and in particular the various social media, those who are not seeking this material can be exposed to it if there are no controls in place. Those not wanting to view this material have the same rights to use the internet and social media and safety mechanisms should be in place to ensure their right not see the material is being honoured.  The internet is part of society and therefore is subject to the rules of society and as a result it should not be a "anything goes" environment.

 

If it becomes harder to technically to manage this  then so be it the industry has to find a way to so in order to met the requirements of society and government.

 

Edit; added a line that dropped off in my cut and paste





Mike
Retired IT Manager. 
The views stated in my posts are my personal views and not that of any other organisation.

 

Using empathy takes no energy and can gain so much. Try it.

 

 




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  Reply # 2201910 19-Mar-2019 18:09
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I suggest that this discussion could be split into 3 separate questions:

 

1) Should access to objectionable material on the Internet be blocked (with the exception of child pornography which is already covered by a separate system)
2) Who should make the decision about whether to block such material
3) What mechanism should be utilised to achieve this

Qs 2 & 3 are dependent on whether the answer to Q1 is in the affirmative, therefore, if there is agreement, can I suggest that we start with Q1?


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  Reply # 2201917 19-Mar-2019 18:39
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SamF:

 

1) Should access to objectionable material on the Internet be blocked (with the exception of child pornography which is already covered by a separate system)
...
I suggest that we start with Q1?

 

 

No. My position is based not only on my personal beliefs which oppose any form of censorship, but also on the exceptional vagueness of our legislation.


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  Reply # 2201921 19-Mar-2019 18:51
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My view is simple, net neutrality trumps everything else. I do not believe it is the place of ISP's or even the government to block or censor any content unless customers explicitly opt in to it.

 

If people chose to access illegal content, that should be dealt with through the existing legal processes. I've thought this since the DIA filter was first mooted and then introduced, but the reality is the impact of that filter has been very minor so it's hardly been worth discussing. The action taken by the ISP's on Friday was far more concerning to me, and has I feel opened Pandora's box. Once ISP's start blocking any content, the door is open much wider for other *cough*content monopolies *cough* parties to start demanding the blocking of websites they don't like.

 

To answer SamF's three points more directly,

 

1. No

 

2. No-one

 

3. None

 

 





Information wants to be free. The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.


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  Reply # 2201942 19-Mar-2019 19:12
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I'm 146% against. 

 

When any governing body acts on so called behalf of I-have-no-idea-who to block access to information/video without court order (which I suppose should have law behind it) - RUBBISH.

 

It might be 100% valid reason and right ethical reason to do, but they HAVE NO right to block/restrict/etc without court order.

 

Been Russian, where in the past 10 yrs government started to decide what Russians can see and what should not based on politics/sanctions/etc - RUBBISH

 

GREAT FIREWALL of CHINA is another extreme example, when government decides what should be available for its citizens, I don't want NZ be like that. Even at the event of terror.

 

We don't want to blame means of exchange of information for the all the evil in the world.

 

Imagine one day GZ would be block just for the sake of all information it holds, there's plenty info how to block ads, bypass geo-block, etc





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  Reply # 2201947 19-Mar-2019 19:21
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Personally I'm against blocking, I'm all for a government managed blocklist people can opt into if they choose(ie the DIA filter is well managed with a solid review process of all sites every few months iirc). The purpose of the DIA list is to protect people from accidental viewing of that objectionable content, not to catch/prosecute anyone(they don't log any visitor data).

 

 


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  Reply # 2201982 19-Mar-2019 20:00
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stinger:

 

Australia and other countries have laws that specifically blocks pirate sites. If New Zealand also pass such laws, people that want to access those sites only need to use Cloudflare or Google DNS, and the torrents will stream freely. It is interesting to see that Spark, Vodafone and Vocus all made press releases at the time this was announced denouncing this, but they have no issues with blocking sites without a court order. Given their turnaround, I don't expect to hear any complaints from them if that law passes.

 

 

Incorrect - Cloudflare can only be set from the content provider side, not from the user side. And it wouldn't bypass a DNS block or similar.





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  Reply # 2201985 19-Mar-2019 20:03
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freitasm:

 

Incorrect - Cloudflare can only be set from the content provider side, not from the user side.

 

 

Sorry, I meant Cloudflare DNS servers (1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1). Cloudflare have a warrant canary on their DNS service stating they don't change results as a result of a government request. If an ISP redirected port 53 requests to Cloudflare DNS or Google DNS to one of their own nameservers, they would not get my custom.


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  Reply # 2201987 19-Mar-2019 20:04
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1) Should access to objectionable material on the Internet be blocked (with the exception of child pornography which is already covered by a separate system)
Yes

2) Who should make the decision about whether to block such material
Each ISP should make their own decision and let the market decide whether they made the correct decision. Government should have zero influence on ISPs decision.

3) What mechanism should be utilised to achieve this
The ISP can do what they want. If they want to block every website and lose all their customers then they should have that right. If all current ISPs start blocking sites, it won't be long until another ISP comes along and promises zero censorship and takes a nice share of the market.


In terms of recent censorship - it's just grandstanding. If their concern was people watching certain content then they would have taken action against the platforms and websites which have high traffic where this content was being consumed i.e. facebook and youtube. However they also understand that their customers would be infuriated with such actions and thus they took an easy path while seemingly appearing as "doing something about the problem". 




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  Reply # 2201989 19-Mar-2019 20:06
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I tend to err on the side of 'don't block' as well, because of the potential for abuse and the impact to free speech, which I believe is vital for a fully functional democracy.

 

However, on the other hand there are a number of repercussions to consider when taking this approach:
- Viewing of objectionable material by children, causing significant mental harm
- Further traumatisation of victims or their families
- Inflammation of existing tensions / incitement of further violence or acts of retaliation

- I am a father and while I took steps to ensure that my children did not view the video, I am not able to put in place a robust method to block this material and it is not practical to monitor or control every action my children take on the Internet.
- Some sites have the video playing automatically
- There have already been reports of copy-cats planning similar attacks in Australia, which while not being primarily the result of the objectionable material, could have been inflamed by it.


The answer to the issue with the first 2 issues above is perhaps something similar to what @loceff13 has suggested; an opt-in filter.  I think this would need to be applied on a per-connection solution however, rather than to cover an entire ISP's customer base

 

As @stinger has pointed out, I also think that it is effectively impossible to fully censor the Internet, even if you wanted to, however, you can reduce accidental exposure significantly.




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  Reply # 2201992 19-Mar-2019 20:10
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NZGamingIcon:

 

2) Who should make the decision about whether to block such material
Each ISP should make their own decision and let the market decide whether they made the correct decision.

3) What mechanism should be utilised to achieve this
The ISP can do what they want. If they want to block every website and lose all their customers then they should have that right. If all current ISPs start blocking sites, it won't be long until another ISP comes along and promises zero censorship and takes a nice share of the market.

 

 

 

The problem with this approach is that this then effectively reduces consumer choice.  I choose to be with an ISP for a number of reasons (price, performance, service, features); if that ISP then decides to filter and I don't agree with it; I'm potentially disadvantaged.
Also, some people (eg; rural customers), don't have access to the full range of ISPs.

 

Finally, I believe that Internet access is now an essential service, bordering on a right, so any arbitrary restriction of this is a violation of that right.


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  Reply # 2201993 19-Mar-2019 20:12
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SamF:

 

I tend to err on the side of 'don't block' as well, because of the potential for abuse and the impact to free speech, which I believe is vital for a fully functional democracy.

 

 

Remember though, talking about racism is one thing. Spreading racism is another. I support the first. I do not support the second.

 

This includes other extremist views that impact peoples' lives.





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