National broadband provider Internode has clarified its position with respect to the limited filtering scheme being implemented by other ISPs, saying it will implement the scheme when it’s forced to by law – but not otherwise.
Along with Telstra, Optus has pledged to implement a voluntary filtering framework developed by the ISP industry’s peak representative body, the Internet Industry Association. The filter, which is being seen as a more moderate industry approach developed in reaction to the Federal Government’s much more comprehensive filter scheme, will see the ISPs block a “worst of the worst” list of child pornography sites generated by international police agency Interpol.
However, in a post on broadband forum Whirlpool this week, Internode managing director Simon Hackett said his company wouldn’t implement the filtering scheme until forced to.
“Bottom line is this: If an existing or new law is used to legally demand that we act in a specific way, we will have no choice to comply with that legal direction, and we will,” he wrote. “Until that occurs, its hard to understand the merits of over-reaching ahead of such a legal direction, and engaging in security theatre for the sake of it, without any legal direction (or protection) provided for us doing so.”
The legal instrument which is seeing Telstra and Optus implement the filters is contained in Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act. Under the Act, the Australian Federal Police is believed to have issued notices to the two telcos asking for their assistance in blocking Interpol’s list, under an arrangement brokered by the IIA.
It’s not clear whether other major ISPs have so far received the notices, although the Australian reported this morning that the AFP had committed to only issuing the notices to ISPs which had already agreed to the voluntary filtering framework.
“The point is that Internode obeys the law. The law hasn’t (yet) directed us to do something in this realm. So we haven’t yet done so,” said Hackett. “We feel that if the government wishes to pass a law that has the effect of legally requiring us to do something, thats fine – we’ll do it. Until then, we will wait and watch with interest.”
Hackett said Internode didn’t know, and wasn’t responsible for, whatever motivations were driving Telstra and Optus to participate in “whatever it is, exactly, that they’re participating in here”.
“We hope that the government won’t repeat its previous activity in this realm, of framing ISPs who don’t act ahead of, and in the absence of the protection of, some new or existing law as being supporters of the ‘bad guys’,” he added. “We are, of course, not ‘supporters of the bad guys’. But we’re also not disposed to take actions to impact our customers’ Internet services that are not (yet) the subject of any form of legal direction to do so.”
Image credit: Internode