Internet filtering and censorship proposals
Forum - November 2008

Program - References

[NB next event: Workshop 4 March 2009 - see]

On 27 November 2008 UNSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre hosted its first forum, for 70 experts and other interested persons, to explore aspects of the Australian Government's current Internet filtering and censorship proposals. The aim was to consider the underlying issues and constraints from various perspectives, with arguments and evidence considered on their merits. The Centre supports the development of collaborative research in this area, and the forum enabled some of the potential directions to be identified. This is the working page for the forum, and research arising from it.

The extensive References section below is will continue to be updated for the life of the project or unless notified.

Participants queried how best to pursue issues raised at this forum; a follow-on event was later planned for 4 March 2009. See the 4 March 2009 workshop.

Program for the forum

Participants were welcome to speak in a personal capacity, although chose also to comment on the perspective of organisations with whom they have some affiliation. Affiliations are included below for information only, and do not necessarily imply endorsement.

Session 1: Technical parameters of Internet filtering, esp. the current proposal

Filtering techniques, effectiveness, false positives and negatives, potential network degradation, deep packet inspection, methods of circumvention, past self-regulation models used by those looking after the Internet. (Child pornography will not be addressed in this session.)

  • Siva Sivasubramanian, Group Information Security Manager, Optus: How various filtering models work, what is and is not possible, complications, what is missed out, alternative options [PDF]
  • Stephen Gillies, systems engineer, Ironport (router and security tool providers): what goes on inside a filtering router? [PDF]
  • Donna Ashelford, president of System Administrators Guild of Australia, Information Services Manager, Business School, University of Qld and: history of Internet content regulation from the perspective of system administrators, liabilities, obligations, challenges, alternatives [PDF]
  • Colin Jacobs, Electronic Frontiers Australia: wider technical and technical-policy issues [PDF]
  • Chair: David Vaile, executive director, Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, UNSW

(Paul Brooks, though unable to attend, was kind enough to provide, on behalf of ISOC-AU, an explanatory presentation [PDF]. It covers a number of network technical design issues.)

Morning tea

Session 2: Legal and societal framework

What is the legal basis for regulation of content on the Internet, how does it interact with the filtering proposal, and how is the problem addressed in other countries?

  • Adrian Lawrence, Partner, Baker & McKenzie: the legal framework for Internet content control, filtering, obligations for ISPs, remedies, liabilities and related legal matters. [PDF]
  • Paul Hunt, former Deputy Director of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (re-named the Classification Board): the structure of classification and how it applies to Internet content, who is involved in classification of the confidential ACMA blacklist, challenges in classification. [PDF]
  • Alana Maurushat, researcher at UNSW Law Faculty and international malware regulation expert: compare international framework of legal and governance arrangements surrounding other instances of filtering via Internet infrastructure. [PDF]
  • Prof Catharine Lumby, UNSW Journalism and Media Research Centre: history of censorship, consumption and production of porn, sexualisation of children, evidence-based strategies, fantasy of the classifiability of the Internet?
  • Chair: Peter Black, law lecturer, Queensland University of Technology.


Session 3: What is to be done about child porn, and protecting the interests of children?

Issues arising from the child porn aspect of the filtering proposal, and what we know about the effectiveness of various tools and models for addressing the needs and interests of children and young people.

  • Holly Doel-Mackaway, child rights advisor for Save the Children Australia, and James McDougall, director, National Childrens and Youth Law Centre: the legal basis for child protection, issues about children at different ages, uses of Internet filtering for child protection, options for protecting their interests and rights. [PDF]
  • Ajoy Ghosh, eminent digital forensics expert: the limits and deficiencies of technical means in Australia for detection, prevention and prosecution of child pornographers. [PDF]
  • Alana Maurushat, researcher at UNSW Law Faculty: research from a partnership with Cambridge UK and Berkman Centre in the US looking at the most effective ways to reduce child pornography, and current deficiencies in' incentivising' parties involved. [PDF]
  • Chair: Carolyn Penfold, senior lecturer, UNSW Law Faculty


Temporary wireless accounts were also used by some participants to engage a broader audience of 50 or so other people via live blogging. For instance, someone from China commented on the impact of the '"Great Firewall of China" alleged Panopticon effect.

Link to blog posts about the UNSW forum on Peter Black's Freedom to Differ ('A blog that speaks freely about legal and policy issues facing the media and the internet'):


The discussion covers legal, policy, technology and social issues around the current Internet filtering proposal. The purpose of the proposed filter scheme seems somewhat unclear, so the organisers encouraged participants to consider three alternative possible purposes, in increasing generality and difficulty:

  1. only to avoid inadvertent or unintended viewing, only of child pornography materials, and only while surfing the Web (this is similar to the purpose raised by eg, Hamilton in 2003, though there it was perhaps then further limited to only young people as viewers to be protected)

  2. to also prevent, detect, block, and help prosecute deliberate access to, publication or circulation of only child pornography materials, using the Web and possibly other Internet methods (this is the purpose perhaps implied in more recent discussions?)

  3. to block and deter both inadvertent and deliberate interaction with a wider ambit of 'illegal', 'prohibited' or otherwise deprecated material (including that which ACMA is entitled or obliged to list under its confidential blacklist of offshore sites, including reported sites which would probably attract an MA 15+ rating if ever classified), using any Internet method (purpose implied in other statements)

While discussion was constrained to core issues, some commentators (see Davidson below) also flag possible overlaps with technical and policy aspects of other developments. These were raised peripherally.

For instance, a recent live-feed suicide in the US may prompt further consideration of 'suicide' issues, which have already been suggested as a target for filtering.

And developments in litigation and investigation of alleged copyright infringements (see Bermeister/Speck and iiNet stories below) may prompt inquiries about the multiple potential uses of certain of the underlying technologies.


The extensive list of references and potentially interested organisations have been moved to a new home HERE.