iiNet, Internode implement Conroy’s new filter


news National broadband provider iiNet and its subsidiary Internode have pledged to implement the limited child abuse Internet filtering scheme adopted as policy last week by the Federal Government, noting they had received independent legal advice advising them to comply with a new “compulsory” request by police to do so.

Last week, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the Federal Government would abandon its highly unpopular and controversial mandatory Internet filtering policy in favour of a more limited scheme that will see Australian ISPs forced to block a much smaller list of child abuse sites supplied by international policing agency Interpol. The legal mechanism for the scheme to proceed is Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, which allows the Australian Federal Police to request assistance from local telcos. Telstra and Optus implemented the scheme in mid-2011; Conroy said last week that it will now be extended to other ISPs.

In mid-2011, a number of ISPs, such as Telstra, Optus, iiNet and Internode, received such requests from the Australian Federal Police to implement such a filtering scheme for the Interpol list. At the time, Telstra and Optus complied with the request and have had their filters working for more than a year with no known public complaints, while a number of other ISPs, such as iiNet and Internode, declined to do so, citing uncertainty about the legality of the request.

However, posting on broadband forum Whirlpool this week, iiNet group chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby noted that the Section 313 notices received in mid-2011 by the ISPs had made it clear the scheme was “voluntary”. New notices issued to ISPs recently, however, he said, had the word “voluntary” removed from their text.

“… the AFP advised us that compliance was voluntary. As a result we declined to participate,” Dalby wrote. “Now it is clearly no longer voluntary and we are obliged to comply, which we will. As you will no doubt have read from the press release, all ISPs will be served notices by the AFP. I’m sure most will take legal advice on the effectiveness of the notifications and act according to that legal advice.”

Dalby noted iiNet had sought legal advice on the Section 313 notice, and added: ” … we are satisfied that both the advice and our obligations are clear.” However, he declined to release that legal advice to iiNet’s customers and the public, or to release the text of the Section 313 notice issued by the Australian Federal Police to iiNet.

“There’s no need for a press release,” he told Whirlpool users. “We see the matter as ‘business as usual’ – we comply with legitimate request or directions from law enforcement agency all the time. This is no different, now that the element of volunteering has been removed.”

“It’s not complicated,” he added. “The Act hasn’t changed, the section 313 notice has. Previously, it seems, some ISPs were prepared to act on the ‘voluntary’ s313. We declined. Now that it is no longer voluntary, we are complying … The word ‘voluntary’ was deleted from the MS Word document. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp?”

However, not everyone believes that the Section 313 notices which are being used by the Australian Federal Police to implement the limited Interpol filtering scheme are in fact legal.
For example, this week Australian free market thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs accused the Federal Government of relying on an “obscure” section of telecommunications law in a way that was never intended to implement its new limited Internet filtering scheme, and warned of the potential for scope creep under the scheme.

“The Gillard government is handing over control for the list of banned websites to the international police agency, Interpol, and is using an existing law in a way that was never intended,” said Simon Breheny, director of the IPA’s Legal Rights Project.

“The use of an obscure provision of the legislation raises serious legal issues – it is highly doubtful whether the law can be used to compel ISPs to block websites at the Minister’s behest. If the Minister always had the power to impose an internet filter without the need for new legislation section 313 would have been used from the beginning,” Breheny added.

Last week, most digital rights, political and telecommunications organisations in Australia – including Electronic Frontiers Australia, the Pirate Party of Australia, the Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU), the Greens, the Opposition, the Internet Industry Association and others welcomed the Government’s backdown on the mandatory Internet filter and the implementation of the new scheme. However, some, such as ISOC-AU, noted that they still had concerns with the details of the new setup.

Delimiter has encouraged the Minister to hold an open press conference on the issue to take questions from the media, as well as to issue a discussion paper on the issue which would allow the public to comment on the scheme formally. In addition, we have invited the Minister to respond to the following questions in writing:

  • Given the wide-ranging nature of the Interpol filter — affecting most Australian Internet users — why was no public consultation held before the Government decided to take take this step? I note that the Government has never held a formal public consultation into Internet filtering in general.
  • How would the Government respond to the claim that there will be no civilian oversight of this Interpol filtering scheme, with key information about it only being released over the past several years through Freedom of Information requests filed with the Australian Federal Police?
  • ISPs such as iiNet, Internode, TPG and Exetel have declined to participate in this scheme so far over the past 12 months, with some citing uncertainty of the legal situation. How would the Government address the claim that the legal ground of this Interpol filtering scheme, notably the process whereby the AFP issues notices to ISPs, is not clear?
  • Which further ISPs will the AFP issue notices to? Has the Government already received support from those ISPs for the scheme? How will the Government react if an ISP declines the notice?
  • How would the Government respond to the claim that there is the potential for the AFP to issue notices beyond the Interpol list to ISPs, in an approach which could be dubbed ‘scope creep’?
  • Neither Telstra nor Optus explicitly notified customers that they had implemented the Interpol filter when they did so last year. What guidelines will the Government be placing around ISPs’ participation in this scheme?

Image credit: iiNet


  1. Couple of questions people may know the answer to off the top of their heads.

    Is this list of filtered sites publicly available, and how often is it updated? Also, many people use like Google DNS servers (, are ISPs going to be filtering the actual DNS queries, or just manipulating their own DNS servers?

    • There is nothing to stop people using different DNS servers. History has *already* shown that the Interpol filter in place with Telstra and Optus is trivially defeated with a DNS change:

      The ISPs could do some funky firewalling to force you to use their DNS servers – (many corporate networks do this for security purposes) – but then you could just use proxies and the like to get around those firewall rules to.

      Most people won’t want to do this, or care about this, or even know how to do this.

      It’s the people who WANT to get around this who will know how to, which is why the whole process/concept of ‘blocking’ questionable content is pointless anyway. It won’t stop the people who want to get the ‘blocked’ content from getting the ‘blocked’ content.


      It’s all about politics – be seen to be doing something, when you’re doing nothing – (or very little) – at all.

  2. I’d be very surprised if the list was publicly available, given how easy it is to get around such filters.

  3. huh – a filter article with no comment from law enforcement specialist/online rights activist/network engineer/child abuse expert/lawyer/allround great guy Mark Newton?

  4. This is the quote from Steve Dalby that keeps bothering me.

    “It’s not complicated,” he added. “The Act hasn’t changed, the section 313 notice has. Previously, it seems, some ISPs were prepared to act on the ‘voluntary’ s313. We declined. Now that it is no longer voluntary, we are complying … The word ‘voluntary’ was deleted from the MS Word document. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp?”

    Just because the AFP took the word ‘voluntary’ out of the notice doesn’t change the law, so it shouldn’t make a difference.

    • Its probably a “regulation”, which is able to be modified without the law itself changing. That is to say, the legislation delegates administrative power to adjust the regulations to another body.

      Or I could be wrong.

  5. “Australian governments also made 92 requests to remove items from Google websites, including YouTube and search engine results.

    Most of the requests were made for “”privacy and security” reasons, or over defamation and copyright issues.

    A small number were removed for reasons of “government criticism”.”

    Government criticism?

  6. I still don’t see how the AFP can compel an ISP to filter, without legislation, since the ISP is not breaking any law by not filtering.

    Requesting an ISP blocks a site, (or compelling them to), seems to me to be a big stretch.

    • Is this really so hard?

      The law DOES actually permit them to request illegal content not be accessible. They simply have not exercised their powers in that way in the past, but the law is quite clear that they CAN in much the same way it’s clear that they can ask for the details of a user who has broken the law.

  7. Leaving the list of banned sites in the hands of Interpol and other o/s agencies as regards child porn sites leaves a gap between what will be banned from overseas and what will be banned here. As the Sex Party’s Fiona Patten has repeatedly pointed out, Australian law which describes child porn ignores the actual age of participants in sexual media and relies almost exclusively on how old they ‘appear’. No other country in the world does this and its the reason that people are busted on a weekly basis for bringing Japanese manga back into Australia that was purchased at the newsagent atTokyo airport. The characters ‘appear’ to be young teenagers to the people in the Classification Board and at Customs who are judging this. If child porn is the basis of the new internet filtering scheme, then Interpol will only be interested in the parameters of Regulation 2257 which provides for incontrovertible evidence about age as the be all and end all of what is child porn. They will then apply that to websites that come to their notice from other countries. There are hundreds of thousands of perfectly legal R2257 regulated sites in the US, with all the legal documentation necessary to prove that there are only above 18 year olds modelling on them, that would have you thrown in jail if you uploaded them from Australia. The government needs to update the Refused Classification category as Conroy promised to do over a year ago and it needs to look at bringing Australia’s child porn laws into line with the US and Europe. A good start on this would be for the government to reply to the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s enquiry into classification.

    • Yes, it’s ridiculous that a model in her/his mid-to-late 20s but looks like a teen is considered child porn.

      I think a model wearing school uniforms, nappies or cartoon characters (as the Qld/Simpsons case showed) also falls into the category of CP.

  8. Lucky they don’t use that terminology for getting into clubs..

    Sorry, you look under ’18’, even though your I.D. says otherwise.. Your not allowed into the club.

    Come back when you look 18+ :P

  9. ‘Telstra and Optus complied with the request and have had their filters working for more than a year with no known public complaints…’

    WTF? I find it very hard to believe that no one complained!

    At least one person has complained – me!

    Total lies. Then again, that’s pretty much par for the course for Telstra and Optus.

Comments are closed.