Telstra proposes to filter Interpol blacklist


The nation’s largest telco Telstra today revealed it was close to achieving executive sign-off for its internal proposal guiding the technical details of how it will cooperate with the Federal Government to voluntarily filter a list of sites containing child pornography from being accessed by its internet customers.

The limited filtering initiative — which Optus and Primus are also planning to implement — is a stop-gap measure agreed to by ISPs and the Federal Government in mid-2010 while a review is carried out into the Refused Classification category of content which Government’s wider mandatory filter project is slated to block. The ISPs’ filter will only block sites with child pornography — instead of those with illlegal content in general.

A report by The Australian newspaper overnight had suggested Telstra was “wavering” in its support for the voluntary filter proposal. However, a Telstra spokesperson today said the telco’s commitment was “plainly stated” in its media release on the matter last year, and “nothing has happened to alter that commitment”.

In the original proposal, the ISPs were planning to block a list of sites supplied by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. However, it appears that has now changed, with Telstra stating it had sourced an alternate list.

“Telstra is working with the Australian Federal Police to disrupt the availability of child sexual abuse content in Australia,” the spokesperson said. “We are currently considering blocking a list of illegal child sexual abuse sites identified as being the worst globally by international policing body Interpol. The move would help protect child abuse victims from public identification and serve to protect customers from inadvertent access to this illegal content.”

The Interpol list which Telstra is examining is believed to have been in use for a number of years, with telcos such as BT, O2 and Virgin having blocked addresses on it from reaching customers for some time.

For a site to get onto the list, it is believed that law enforcement agencies in at least two separate jurisdictions have to validate the entry and being illegal and not just objectivable. In addition, the age of children depicted through content on the sites must be younger than 13 years of age, or perceived to be less than 13.

Furthermore, there must be evidence of severe abuse in the content of the site, and the domain must have been active within the past three months. The list is centrally maintained by Interpol itself rather than the Australian Federal Police — although the AFP has access to the list.

As the voluntary filtering regime comes closer to reality in Australia, with the ISPs planning to implement the system over the next few months, online rights campaigners have again begun to raise their voices in opposition to the idea.

Yesterday global digital rights lobby group the Electronic Frontiers Foundation published a statement strongly opposing the voluntary filter, stating the plan lacked transparency in the selection of the internet addresses to be blocked, and a lack of accountability from regulatory bodies creating the blacklists.

EFF director for international freedom of expression Jillian C. York added in her argument that filtering systems did little to curb the trade of child pornography in practice, with much of the objectionable material being trafficked across peer to peer and virtual private networks.

The wider mandatory filter policy does contain a number of mechanisms designed to address some of the concerns which York has raised. For example, that policy will feature an annual review of content on the ‘blacklist’, avenues for appeal of classification decisions and the use of a standardised block page to be used by ISPs.

Yesterday afternoon, the Office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy issued a statement noting that it was the Government’s aim that as many of the accountability and transparency measures as possible (“those that can apply without the passing of legislation”) would be available to the ISPs to incorporate into their voluntary processes. “We are still working through the details of the voluntary arrangements with the ISPs and details have not yet been finalised,” the statement added.

It is not clear yet how Telstra’s proposal to use an Interpol blacklist rather than one sourced from ACMA will affect the project as a whole.

Image credit: Cop Richard, royalty free


  1. Doesn’t change a thing. As the EFF stated:

    EFF director for international freedom of expression Jillian C. York added in her argument that filtering systems did little to curb the trade of child pornography in practice, with much of the objectionable material being trafficked across peer to peer and virtual private networks.

    In fact I’d go so far as to say it isn’t “do little to curb” but in fact “do nothing to curb and possibly make law enforcement’s job harder”.

  2. This makes even less sense to me. If these sites are illegal in at least two jurisdictions, and so much effort is going into identifying and validating them in the first place, why are they simply not being shut down entirely?

    • There probably isnt a huge natural market for material depicting the abuse of minors. Like the CIAs involvement in the war on drugs, sometimes these things need a helping hand in order to generate the required level of public concern and the subsequent over the top totalitarian response.
      Many of the child abuse sites that are seemingly impossible to shutdown are likely to be honey pot sites run by Western governments – who are in possession of the largest collections of child abuse images and have a motive to shut down legitimate channels of discussion and dissent like the internet.
      By filtering these site we are not only protected from the unlikely event of accidental exposure but the site owners are also protected from people investigating who owns the domain and who is hosting the material.

    • these sites are probably registered, hosted and administered in Russia or Central Europe by cybercrime gangs who receive political protection from corrupt officials.

  3. Telstra are a wholesaler as well as a retailer. Does anyone know if the filtering only covers their own retail customers or are other ISP’s who wholesale from telstra or going to be effected also?

  4. I just dont see the point in banning these sites, we already have the technology to prosecute the offenders, the government and media just need to stop whinging about it. They make it sound like you cant go on the internet with out seeing images of child sexual abuse. I have been an internet user for the last 15+ years, and most of my free time is spent on the internet, I have yet to come across one of these sites, except for 4chan.

    If the media stops advertising that child porn is out there, and stop trying to bring in legislation to counter act a non issue, we will all be better off, the offenders will still be getting prosecuted, and we wont have to live in fear of a potential disaster such as an isp based internet filter. If a filter is put in place, who is to say what will be filtered out. Sure child porn is offensive and down right evil and disgusting, but I dont want the government making decisions on what I can and cant view. We will be no better than the great firewall of china.

    Once the government or corporations can control what you can and cant view, then all of your freedoms go out the window and the internet will just end up being used as a giant propaganda machine.

  5. In Telstra’s original press release ( ) the following statement was included:
    “Mr Quilty said Telstra understood the Government would ensure that ISPs would not be legally liable for voluntarily blocking child pornography and abuse sites as determined by ACMA”

    This has been widely interpreted as a requirement for the Government to amend the Telecommunication Interception Act so the ISPs couldn’t be held liable for interception of customers traffic so they can filter it.

    What has changed since that announcement that will enable Telstra to intercept their customers internet so they can examine URLs? Has anyone heard of any secret amendments to the legislation?

  6. For people who say they will leave bigpond, iprimus and optus on principles, will they have the same principle when its mandatory for every isp to have filter

    or are they going to be hypocritical and stay on the internet.

    If people say leave on principle then the same people should have the same to disconnect from the net

    • Sydney said…
      “For people who say they will leave bigpond, iprimus and optus on principles, will they have the same principle when its mandatory for every isp to have filter”

      What a contrived load of tripe, it is an entirely different situation for an ISP to impose a foolish and ill considered policy of their own volition compared to introducing it because it is a legal requirement, even if they think it is ill considered and foolish.

      • cameron watt , if you have principles against censoring then you should keep your principles whether its mandatory or not

        • Why does it imply I would not keep my principles? I would still do what I can to ensure an effective and transparent system. What is being proposed here can never be either.

          What do you do when the political party you voted for didn’t win the election? Do you leave the country? Or do you vote for your preferred party/politician at the next election?

          Do you support child sexual abuse? If not why do you continue to live is a country/society where it occurs?

          The answers should be simple, you do what you can to change what you can.

          You may be surprised why the Internet censorship policy has stirred up such a passionate response, it is because it will be entirely ineffective and diverts money from programs that prove, time and again, to be effective.

          • Totally agree, I would stay on the internet and it wouldnt be hypocrytical of me to do so. While I still have the choice of an isp with the filter and one with out, I would choose the one without. Not because I am into child porn, but I dont trust the filter to filter JUST the child porn. If it became legally mandatory for every isp to have the filter why should I leave the internet?

            I hope you actually know the meaning of the word hypocrosy as it seems that you dont.

            (p.s. I quoted cameron cos I agree with him, but my reply is actually directed to sydney)

        • God Sydney, nice completely ignoring the arguments put to you.

          What if your principal is: “I will leave any ISP that voluntarily chooses to censor my internet”

          your follow up principal is: “I will fight tooth and nail any government that enacts or attempts to enact legislation that *requires* my ISP to censor my internet”

          Both of those “principals” are 100% completely capable of living side by side. (And no, you don’t have to be an idiot and ignore certain parts of the first principal and decide to leave any ISP that filters the internet).

    • I can only speak for myself when I say that I have been strongly considering getting a SSL proxy account from one of many vendors on the internet. I am not a customer of Telstra, but I am concerned about the agenda that the government is pushing. Better safe than sorry.

  7. some of the comments I’m reading here is disgusting.
    if it stop only one old dirty man looking at these sites and crimes making money it a success.
    Ur leaving telstra cause there doing this? Let hope it not ur children tat are on these pages.

    • If it will only stop one “dirty old man” from seeing kiddie porn then it’s a fundamental waste of money, money could have gone towards capturing and prosecuting far more than just one.

    • Leo,

      You said:

      “if it stop only one old dirty man looking at these sites and crimes making money it a success”

      My rejoinder: If it stops only one prominent public officer (eg a prime minister) from being exposed with his/her pants down, then the filter is an abject failure.

    • Leo, I think your reading comprehension needs work, the end doesn’t justify the means. Everybody here no doubt agrees with you that if we could some how block the child porn, AND ONLY the child porn. Then the government would have 100% support from the public. The problem lies in the filter itself and who controls it.

      Lets say your into girls with small breasts. Its completely legal but not everyone is into it. Lets say we get an extremely conservative prime minister who thinks that it is boarderline childporn and thus decides that it isn’t suitable for anyone to see. So they decide to block the site with out telling you. Now you cannot access something which is totally legal to view based on what some one else deems appropriate. Wouldn’t you be pissed?. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Lets say you have a particular form of cancer and your medical proffessional has recommended (off the record of course) that smoking weed could help your symptoms i.e. medical weed. So you decide to do your own research to see if your doctor is just a stoner, or if there have been studies to say that it could help you with said condition. You type it into google but nothing comes up, because the government has filtered it out because it is an illegal substance that no one should be getting information about as it is illegal.

      If the drug analogies aren’t your thing, then what about being a political activist. Lets say you have some interesting theories about whats really happening in the country. The government now has the power to censor your speech. Now what kind of country would Australia turn into if the government could easily control what you can say or see on the internet. What about the previous black list that had thousands of completely legal sites added to it for no apparent reason. Lets say you decide to buy some buttons from a website that is local based and you buy all your knitting supplies there, some one hacks in and posts a child abuse picture on their website, it is instantly black listed and thus filtered out. Now that perfectly legitimate business has been pretty much shut down by a kneejerk reaction by the government.

      I can keep going on and on and on, and you might say “but the government wont do that” but I can assure you, given the power, the government will eventually walk this path “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    • Leo:

      A counter argument for you.

      “If it stops one dirty old man viewing child porn” thats great, I agree. (probably not with a hundred million dollars, but at least it is something.)

      What if the filter stops a dirty old man viewing port, trains him how to use an anonymising VPN? What if that Dirty old man, now completely hidden on the internet because we forced him to, escalates into a creator of child porn. Now we have a Dirty old Child-Porn manufacturer, trained (by his own depraved necessity) in the art of being untraceable on the internet, abusing a child.

      The filter doesn’t stop the creation of child porn.
      The filter trains paedophiles in the art of accessing the internet in an untraceable way.
      The filter alerts paedophiles that the material they might be seeking can be obtained in a site they tried to access, but only if they learn how to access the internet anonymously.

      Remind me. Why are we filtering the internet?

  8. basically, we have to distinguish between “illegal porn” and “refused classification porn”.

    the ISPs are probably happy to filter out “illegal porn” only.

    however, Conroy wants the ISPs to filter out “RC porn” as well.

    imagine if the Board of Classification hired people who sat in front of their Dell 27″ U2711 all day watching online porn and classifying them…. mammoth task! lol.

  9. You can’t stop people hacking or using internet real time encryption programs. Everyone “hack savvy” in China will know how to around the GREAT FIRE WALL OF CHINA and Aussies will do just the same. I’ve done AND PASSED a University assignment which showed figures and states of these so called Internet filters as being very dodgy to say the least and easy to circumvent. Waste of money and time to be honest for the most part. Stop it if you can do it cheaply but seriously the only way to stop it one hundred percent is to do what Egypt did in the riots TURN OFF THE INTERNET AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as that won’t happen its a non issue really. Internet Filters can only do so much at the end of the day. Telstra can’t even sell prepaid mobile phones properly (like forgetting to give me my ten dollars free credit on its first run) so I don’t see how they can really implement all this. Bit bitter buts its my view of the Telstra world. Getting back on the subject if people want to get access to those sites they will with or without an Internet filter at very little cost and total security protection on their side I might add.

    • Yeah thats kinda the point though. All the internet filter will do is hinder honest people, it does nothing about the real issue at hand.

  10. My argument against Conroy’s filter has always been that instead of basing it on the Refused Classification rules, he could have instead used lists of genuine child porn that have been compiled by law enforcement agencies. Its the conflating of “illegal” with RC that has been the elephant in the room that he’s been able to quietly dodge because few people understand that RC does not mean illegal. It simply means that something does not fit into one of the categories of our censorship system.

    Now, what I’m curious to see is what happens next. If we end up in a situation where our ISPs reject RC and instead apply a filter only to real child porn as determined by real law enforcement.

    Well, this story has always been about a censorship system created by those who find democracy should be replaced by theocracy. The ones who must enforce their moral rules to save us. And when the censorship system broke down because of the net, they’ve been fuming. And silently, steadily, working behind closed doors, trying to to corrupt our democracy. The last thing the want is to be seen for what they are.

    But, what if the ISPs do go ahead and filter child porn but not RC? The wowsers will hate it. Worse than that the ensuing debate will expose the fact that they were never talking about child porn – rather they were about pushing their hidden agenda. It will be such a shock for them to have to argue openly. “Oh yes, that’s ok, we like that.. but we still want to include RC! Yes.. we know its not about child porn but.. but.. its for your own good!”

    Bring it on.

    • That’s a very good statement of the problem. There are also a lot of political topics that would probably be added to any government-mandated filter, which would be very dangerous for democracy.

  11. I think people are getting a bit carried away being against internet filters. I’m not on favour for Labor’s mandatory RC filter. However one should not be discouraging an ISP’s own initiative to filter our illegal content running through their network, and working together with the AFP and Interpol on the issue is good. If the ISP’s are more closely monitoring the illegal web traffic with their own filters then perhaps this will lead to more shut downs of these sites.

    • Rob – the problem you seem to be overlooking is that an ISP mandatory filter is no different to a government mandatory filter – they are both mandatory and both block a list generated by government agencies with no transparency.

      If the filters (either of them) were voluntary – opt-in – then no one would give a hoot. But the fact is ISP filters along with a government filter block a list of sites that are SECRET and most of which are NOT LIKELY TO BE ILLEGAL!

    • As I have said previously, If we could be garunteed that the filter would block out child porn AND ONLY CHILD PORN. The community as a whole would be 100% behind it. The thing is, that garuntee is impossible. The problem would come from who ever writes the list of blocked sites, they now have the power to dictate what people can and cant view on the internet and that kind of power will always be abused. It may start off as only child porn, then it might grow to political activists that they want silenced, to websites that they have moral issues with. It is a massive snowball effect. I dont trust the government to write the legislation dictating what I can see on the internet.

      Filters are too open for abuse. I dont doubt for one second that internet savvy people can get around them, so they wouldnt be making a dent in the child porn rackets, but they would be hindering joe bloggs in the suburbs from going about his business. People who aren’t internet savvy has just as much right to a free internet as anyone else.

    • This is actually a comment I agree with.

      ISPs should be left free to filter the internet access they provide their customers.

      But there is one extremely important point to be made.

      Every customer should have a choice. Be it a competitor that DOES NOT filter, or an option within that ISP to disable filtering.

      If they want to trample our rights. Do it in a way that will achieve the results they WANT. Rather than trample our rights for absolutely no results.
      Filtering the internet doesnt catch paedophiles.
      Secretly monitoring EVERYONES internet access and arresting those that look at child porn websites will catch paedophiles. But, that sounds really horrible and will never happen.

  12. Another important thing to note is how really and truly p1st off the last three years has made us all.

    In 2008 most people, including me, would have settled for a filter that blocked illegal material as defined by the Australian federal police.

    However since Conroy, the ACL, et al wowsers, have been so stupid, stubborn, and selfish in their attitude – and in the process confirmed all suspicions that any filter will give them a foot in the door – we are now all going to make 100% certain that no filter of any sort whatsoever gets implemented.

    And I mean that.

    I personally have written software to reverse-engineer any blacklist (by University of Cambridge, Richard Clayton’s Oracle attack method).

    And I will release all of these black-list to prove once and for all how dumb these wowsers are.

  13. Maybe one should start an anti-Gillard Govt website that expressly does all the research and archive all the incompetence, annoyance, and downright pointlessness in her policies?

    You don’t make fun of her or the ALP directly. That’s childish. But to hammer her Govt on her lies and her nonsensical hair-brain policies that no Australian voted for…Create videos with her saying something BEFORE and AFTER. (Says one thing, then does another.)

    …I wonder when a Federal Election can be called? ALP and Greens need to be booted out. One is constructing a Nanny State, and the other is only interested in its own agenda of gay marriage and the environment. Neither really cares for Australians.

  14. Why is our Govt. trying so hard to create a Nanny State? Personally, I don’t need a Nanny and most people if they to responsibility for their decisions would not either. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who do not want to be responsible for their children’s safety when they allow them on the streets well into the night, let them play unsupervised on the net and let them play with no supervision with what ever they like. After all, they have bred to gain a baby bonus from the Govt., so they are not responsible for the children’s welfare, but the Govt. is! Unfortunately in the real world, Governments have a very woeful track record for abuses of power when it comes to censorship. This “cotton wooling” of our society is much the same as restricting freedoms by using the art of Law. After a recent trip to NZ, I realise how much this over protective State of ours has killed off a lot of our traditional outlets of fun and/ or made them prohibitively expensive.
    I have no problem with a “Opt-in” filter for those that want it, but a mandatory filter is just a double expense I don’t require, dumped on me due to the people who refuse to take responsibly for their actions. Those irresponsible people are the ones that have added so much cost to Australian life. Why do we pander to them I do not know. Is it a convenient excuse for a “Big Brother” implementation? Any excuse will do I suppose.
    I have a deep distrust of our Parliament to have the best motives towards our Citizens any more. Too many questionable policies from both sides continue to feed that distrust. As such I will circumvent the filter, but that will make the Internet more expensive as I will ultimately have to pay for the Govt. filter and my Secure Proxy access overseas. I have a problem with that, and will vote accordingly at the next election, for all the good it will do. Pessimistic? Absolutely!

  15. Any Internet filter will be a waste of money. All my research into for my assignments for both Australian and Chinese governments have proven to be a waste of finances and not to mention pretty useless. There are some technical glitches that will slow down the Internet speed anyway once/if its activated. Like science our politicians are useless when it comes to communications and information technological decisions. They need to start employing people with at least 20 or 30 years in the industry before making snap decisions that will waste company & tax payers money. Voluntary filter and control should be handed over to the parents and guardians of the children in this case. No need to over complexfy this. Increase jail terms or a life time fine of ex amount a week or fortnight as a reminder maybe or a combination thereof. There are other deterents as filters DON’T WORK. Any hacker in China will tell you this!!

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