Mobile devices, Planets and the Human Condition

TelstraClear institutes New Access Policy to filter access to websites

, posted: 15-Jul-2008 13:10

TelstraClear have made a strong move today to block access to a large number of sites (approximately 7000 to date) and is intending on growing this list on a daily basis.

Theses sites will be inaccessable from any computer using a TelstraClear internet connection.

While many of you will be expecting me to launch into a rant about freedom of speech and how the internet "wilderness" needs to be protected.

This time I will not.

the reason being, TelstraClear is now blocking access to all known Child pornography sites. the Email I recieved today notifying of the change in policy follows:


This message is to inform you of a change in policy regarding access to some web sites via TelstraClear internet.

We have decided to filter access to all known child sex abuse sites.
This decision is based on the abhorrent nature of the content of these sites and our desire to create a safe online environment for our customers and their families.

There are approximately 7000 known child sex abuse sites in the world. Many of them change their online address every couple of days. As a result, the list of sites is refreshed daily.

TelstraClear will not be keeping records of any users who attempt to access these sites.  This is not an intelligence gathering or covert measure. It is a simple filtering process to make the internet safer for all.

Someone trying to access one of these listed sites will be redirected to a default page notifying them that access to that address is not allowed
. This action will not impact the speed or performance of your broadband.

We trust you will support our move to create a safe online environment. We appreciate and value your continued support and custom.

Kind regards

The team at TelstraClear

This is a very bold move from TCL, and it is totally and completely Morally defendable and easily justified.

I have put in bold some of the parts of the email that interest me the most, and which relaxed some of my paranoia.

My intial small bit of paranoia was around the fact that many policies, rules and laws throughout history have been passed under the guise of the most highly defendable both morally and conciencious grounds, but then abused for other purposes.

What dissapates my paranoia is the fact they are coming out - right and stating
"This is not an Intelligence gathering or covert measure. it is a simple filtering process ..."
This is good. they are outrightly stating they are not trying to gather intelligence or perform any sort of covert operation.

The best part though, is that they are not just black-hole filtering the sites (as in you try to go to the site and it just isn't there - or give you a 404)

instead they will state that the address is not allowed as per:

Someone trying to access one of these listed sites will be redirected to a default page notifying them that access to that address is not allowed.
That is the important bit to my mind, it ensures that should a site be incorrectly blacklisted then it will be apparent, and it will mean that the filtering isn't used to block websites willy nilly that don't fit the original category, just because they can.

Many of the more conspiracy theory oriented of my honored readers will be fast to mention that this doesn't mean they won't black-hole filter sites willy-nilly and not tell you about it, but lets face it, thats already the case.

There has already been some notable case where TNZ and other ISP's have blocked or interfered with traffic to websites - which in all reasonableness they had no justification in doing so.

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Comment by wellygary, on 15-Jul-2008 13:52

A Ballsy move by an ISP,

As long as they make the list of sites they are banning public, and allow ppl to request that sites are removed from the list when they have been incorrectly added.

If they say, nope we have the list and you cannot see it, then they are no better than the TSA

Comment by johnr, on 15-Jul-2008 14:02

Make the list public of known child porn sites are you kidding.. then all the kiddie fiddlers will just jump onto another ISP and goto them!!!

Author's note by inane, on 15-Jul-2008 14:05

I agree to a large extend with your postion there Gary, especially as far as it being ballsy,

I am of two minds as to whether or not the list should be made public.

because due to their stated policy that on accessing a site - if it is on the filter list they will have a message that identifies the site as such.

Thinking more on it, giving Public access to the list of sites they are blocking would actually be very wrong. and they shouldn't do it.

I think they definitely need to have the facility to appeal the banning of sites/ request the sites be taken off the list when they have been incorrectly added.

but Having the list of blocked sites publicly availible is definitely wrong.

its not particularly hard to circumvent internet filtering or website blocking by an ISP - the position that TCL are taking makes it harder for those who want to get to the site and it reduces the chance that someone who doesn't want to get to that sort of site by accident.

but if they were to turn around and provide a list of the sites, it would quickly be usable by those who want to access those sorts of sites who would then go to those sites either via a different ISP or using an anonymizer or proxy type service

Comment by tonyhughes, on 15-Jul-2008 14:23

Good one them, but it will be hard for them to EVER walk away from this action now, and they will have to keep the momentum up.

Author's note by inane, on 15-Jul-2008 14:25

Thats a really good point there Tony.

how long until a parent takes them to court because little "Johnny" or little "Sarah" stumbled across a child porn site, and the parents claim its TCL's fault cos they said they were filtering that stuff so the parent doesn't bother with monitoring internet usage.

Comment by PenultimateHop, on 15-Jul-2008 15:37

This a risky path. Not sure I would be comfortable doing this if I was TCL.

1- You are now completely throwing out any possible "Common Carrier" support. In theory, they could now be held liable for any action of their users because "they should have filtered it". They're proving they have the technology and skills to implement it.
2- There is no method of filtering that is reliable. The cases cited above are good: What happens when they miss a site? Someone will complain/sue/media backlash you. I've seen this happen many times.
3- Having a known list of sites around is in my mind atrocious. If you have a list, GET THE SITES SHUT DOWN. There is no excuse. There is also the possibility of people within the organisation using this list for nefarious purposes.
4- The risk of collateral damage is quite high.
5- While your paranoia fears have been allayed, I don't think mine would be. I'd anticipate that DIA would be quite interested in any logs! Wonder if there'd be a legal basis to support DIA getting a search warrant on the basis that a crime may have been attempted?

I suspect this will end in tears.

Comment by James Sleeman, on 15-Jul-2008 17:45

Indeed an interesting move by an ISP, one I would not have expected without being compelled into the action if for no other reasons than the potential it has to open them up to potential legal issues - they now freely admit that they can and will filter things, so what happens when something "bad" gets through the filter can they be liable for not filtering it, is it negligance... interesting.

Then again, it could be a useful defence ("well your honour, we did try our best to stop the stuff getting through, but as you can see it's just not possible to catch everything") - in which case the cynic could just put this down to a half hearted attempt at filtering just to say they did.

It does raise an issue of arbitrary censorship, if only in the fact that we don't know who is deciding on the status of a site. We are all aware of past debates over wether specific imagery is pornographic or artistic.

With official censorship we know who is ultimately responsible for that, Bill Hastings, and he is quite clear about why things are censored, or not, as the case may be.

Comment by rscole86, on 15-Jul-2008 18:48

Kudo's to TCL on this one!

@wellygary, I can understand where you are coming from. It would be good to know 'who' they get their list from, and if you strike that page there is a contact button so you can request that the blacklisting gets removed.... but otherwise making the list public..... thats just stupid!

Comment by mobygeek, on 16-Jul-2008 09:43

On that last take, TCL's legal team have possibly already thought of that? The other thing I see with the move is that public Libraries, schools etc would feel safer with the filters...

Comment by mobygeek, on 16-Jul-2008 09:43

On that last take, TCL's legal team have possibly already thought of that? The other thing I see with the move is that public Libraries, schools etc would feel safer with the filters...

Comment by davide, on 16-Jul-2008 10:53

Watchdog already do filtering based on content. Hate sites, social networking, peer to peer, pornography etc etc. They market it as a "family friendly" service.

So if an organisation like a library or a school was concerned about such content, they could go with Watchdog- it's almost their target market.

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