We’ll filter when the law makes us: Internode


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


  1. Finally, some sense from an ISP. Of course Conroy will accuse them of being pro-CP under parliamentary privilege. He pulled a similar stunt on the EFA once before.

    I hate to say it but members of parliament in this country have a nasty habit of putting their foot in it. It’s hard to take any politics seriously.

    • The EFA have been remarkably quiet over these latest filter moves considering how noisy they (and a lot of other people/organisations) were a year or two ago.

      • Actually, Ron, as EFA spokesperson I’ve been doing 2-3 media contacts a day over this very issue, not least of which, two pieces on this site in the past week. I’ve spoken on ABC Radio, to Fairfax, to News Limited and others.

        Not certain where you’re getting your info.

        • Hi Stephen,

          Thanks for you reply. My observations were simply based on your website where I can’t see anything in the last week or two about this ‘voluntary’ filtering.

          I’m new to the site so I didn’t see your posts here.

          I’m disappointed that that neither Fairfax papers have covered the filtering last/this week despite it being quite prominent in Murdoch papers.

          • Yes, the “nothing on our site” factor is a real one. We’re all volunteers and do this in our spare time.

            It’s making that time that’s killing us as our previously very active Chair, Colin Jacobs, has recently resigned to take up another role with conflicting interests.

            I’ll try to get something up in the next few days. Thanks a bunch for being interested and keeping us on our toes!

          • Just want to add that your work is very much appreciated!
            Keep up the good work in what ever way you can!

          • Couldn’t agree more than what Frank just wrote, Stephen, and I’ll be ‘Paypaling’ a donation next payday.

            Cheers mate.

  2. A very understandable position from Internode, especially when there is serious doubt over the legality of it in the first place.

    Why would Internode expose themselves to such legal risk, particularly when you look at the penalties under the TIA.

  3. And that’s why in the ADSL2exchange awards Internode scored no.1 for:
    Best overall large isp
    Fastest isp
    Most reliable Isp
    Best customer service

    Best adsl2+ wholesaler (top 2)
    Best value (top 3)

    And NO I don’t work for them! I am not even a customer yet but I am planning on it. Quality of management and their philosophy indicates they listen to their customers instead of getting side tracked by superflous issues. Onya Simon good job!

  4. I like the whole voluntary aspect of this filter in so much as it is voluntary for the ISP and mandatory for the consumer.

    Still I guess it is like the unlimited aspect for certain ISPs data plans, unlimited in so much as you will get a trickle feed.

    Typical double talk from governments, ISPs and the media, all as unreliable as each other.

    Kudos to Internode for flipping off the government and having the backs of their customers.

  5. Good to see internode defining there stance and why.

    I do recal (but cannot verify) that there was already an “international law/agreement” that hosting companies cannot host any CP sites, or some such convention.

    but in all honesty, when was the last time you:
    a) found CP by accident
    b) searched for CP in google?

    because if you are so unlucky to have “a” and or you are too stupid and use “b” then you deserve both the filter and the law knocking on your door. because if you were into CP, the dns filter is a 1 second bypass. the money spend should be used for better AFP resources (not laws, because CP its already illegal).

  6. I have no interest whatsoever in child porn etc., but I’m curious about Telstra’s legal position, when they impose a filter which was not mentioned in our contracts. Are they exposing themselves to a possible class action?

    • I have received a reply this morning from Telstra’s CEO’s office in answer to my query about whether customers will be notified of the filtering as a change in the ToS agreement.

      “We first flagged our intention to disrupt the availability of child abuse content in mid 2010 (our media release at the time for your records http://www.telstra.com.au/abouttelstra/media-centre/announcements/telstra-supportive-of-interim-internet-child-protection-measures.xml )

      Our Customer Terms require that customers do not breach laws when using their Telstra service. Consequently, steps made to block access to illegal content, such as the INTERPOL child abuse sites, do not constitute a change in the terms of our service.”

      I think the last paragraph is interesting because it indicates that the scope of filtering could easily be widened without anyone even being aware.

      I guess Telstra also think customers have an obligation to read their media releases.

      • >indicates that the scope of filtering could easily be widened

        Much the same thing happened with speed cameras, originally for 15k over and then once they were in the squeeze started – typical government approach. Wont be long and we will hear the familiar rhetoric about smaller ISPs being brought into line with accepted industry standards blah blah blah.

  7. So the two players that just announced large sums of money to be paid to them by the government for moving customers ot the NBN and decommisioning their networks have just implemented a filter.

    I guess those two things must be a complete coincidence.

    I also guess that suggesting that this “mini-filter” is a interim step to conroy’s original filter (as announced a few yrs back) would also seem tin-foil hatted?

    If you can’t change ’em quickly, change ’em slowly.. by the time they put two and two together it’ll be too late.

    Ok, back to my tin foil.

    • To be honest I don’t think there is a link between the NBN deals and the filter support … Remember the filter support was agreed to a year ago, and the telcos have always been very ambivalent about filtering stuff.

      I read this voluntary filter as the telcos’ way of trying to get out of Conroy’s much more comprehensive scheme.

      • > I read this voluntary filter as the telcos’ way of trying to get out of Conroy’s much more comprehensive scheme.

        By planting the seeds of acceptance in the hearts and minds of their customers?

        The whole filtering proposal has been a jackboot-in-the-door attempt from day one, being steadily watered down bit at a time until people will swallow it. Even if this ‘voluntary’ system isn’t what Conroy has been demanding, it helps paves the way.

        If someone tries to force you to walk off a cliff that’s ten steps away, then walking two steps towards it doesn’t sound like the kind of tactic that will keep you alive very long.

  8. I am a customer of Internode and see no reason to leave Internode as a customer yet .

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