iiNet CEO defends Interpol filter


The chief executive of one of Australia’s largest Internet service providers has broken his company’s relative silence on the voluntary limited filtering initiative being implemented by Telstra and Optus, defending the project and insisting it not be linked with the Federal Government’s much broader mandatory filtering policy.

So far only Australia’s two largest telcos, Telstra and Optus, have pledged to implement the voluntary filter, which consists of a framework developed by the 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.

iiNet has previously stated it would comply with the law with regard to the filter, although it is unclear whether ISPs would need to comply with police requests to filter the list. However, yesterday iiNet chief executive Michael Malone went further, defending the project in comments made online.

A forum poster on broadband site Whirlpool asked Malone why ISPs weren’t informing their users about the implementation of the Interpol filter or publishing press releases about it.
“Explaining what? If the AFP sends us a lawful order, we comply with it. How is that news? We comply with such instruments every day,” Malone replied.

In response to a commenter who objected to the Interpol filter being implemented, Malone sarcastically asked whether the Australian Federal Police should “do nothing about a foreign site that they know contains genuine child pornography” and whether “iiNet should refuse to comply with a lawful order issued by the AFP”.

Another iiNet employee, posting their personal comments, commented that although they were personally opposed to the filter and would be disappointed if iiNet chose to implement the scheme, they couldn’t realistically expect companies like iiNet to commit “acts of civil disobedience” in such matters — appearing to imply iiNet could refuse an AFP request to filter the Interpol list. “It would be nice if they did,” they wrote.

However, Malone fired back that he didn’t think it would be “nice”.

“iiNet was and remains a most vocal opponent of the government filter. They were proposing a secret list of sites, covering “objectionable” material, or at least the murky refused classification,” Malone wrote. “The AFP is considering a small list of child porn, assembled by law enforcement bodies, reviewed by multiple countries.”

“We need to ensure this is not confused with the government’s proposed filter. That is not dead yet either and needs to be opposed. An order from the AFP to blackhole a site containing internationally recognised child porn is not the same as the government filter.”

Malone said he didn’t believe the Interpol list would be ‘infallible’, but that wasn’t a reason for the scheme not to go ahead.

“Every other law from speeding to accusations of murder is occasionally misapplied too. That is no excuse for inaction,” he added. “Of course they’re not pretending this will fix the problem. If it goes ahead, it’s just one of many actions employed by the AFP and others to tackle the proliferation of child porn. In this case, the AFP seems to be at pains to make sure their orders will be as error free as possible.”

Malone’s comments appear to place iiNet in the middle between two sharply opposed camps of ISPs on the filter issue. Internode, TPG and Exetel have all distanced themselves from the voluntary filtering scheme over the past few weeks, while Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have signalled their support for the initiative, although Vodafone has not yet confirmed that it will definitely implement the filter.

Telstra’s implementation of the filter has already gone live, with Optus planning to do the same over the next few weeks. The legal mechanism under which the filter is being introduced is Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act. Under the Act, the Australian Federal Police is allowed to issue notices to telcos asking for reasonable assistance in upholding the law. It is believed the AFP has issued such notices to Telstra and Optus to ask them to filter the Interpol blacklist of sites.

However, other ISPs such as Internode, TPG and Exetel appear to be uncertain as to where precisely they would stand if the AFP issued such a notice to them — for example, if they would be forced to implement the filter against their wishes. Several have stated that it would be more appropriate for a filtering proposal to be debated through Federal Parliament and become the subject of legislation before it was implemented by ISPs.

Image credit: Delimiter


  1. How does iiNet defend trashing national sovereignty?
    Allowing foreigners to enforce law on Australians is doing just that.
    Folks think Bob Browns “world parliament” is way off.
    That unconstitutional treason is going on right now.

  2. If you look at the Interpol site they admit that legal material can be blocked, the Country’s police can add the Interpol list to their own and even if the CP is removed the site can remain blocked if it contains material that is illegal in the particular country. Conroy’s mandatory filter (old version) by stealth?

    They are expected to just trust the police but their record with secret lists and other thing are not something that inspires confidence. eg NSW Special Branch (disbanded in the 90’s). The AFP certainly doesn’t have an unblemished reputation.

    Most CP is hosted in the USA it seems from this post so why isn’t it being blocked or taken down there.if that is what they want to do. Something just doesn’t smell right with this whole issue I think.

  3. Mean while the US government is shutting down sites that simply link (not host) to torrents sites, all the while they leave the Taliban web sites online. (2) It’s the same when Howard took our guns. Only the good people gave the guns back. Pedophiles know about TOR, VPN’s ect and a dozen other ways to circumvent detection.

    It’s a war on citizen rights to the free flow of alternative news information. Who would want news from phone hacker Murdoch and his establishment. It’s impossible to have a “war” on an ideology such as “terror”. The censorship is about stooping those like Bob Brown in his track with info bombs when I, and others show what traitor he and the GREENS are for going on about a “one world parliament”. That plan isn’t there’s. It’s been in motion for 50 years (3) with Rothschilds banksters behind the scenes driving it, and the carbon tax rubbish.

    One day, if they get their way, what I just wrote above will be filtered.


  4. To clarify – (as the iiNet employee quoted in the article, presently representing my own views and not that of my employer) – my comment regarding “civil disobedience” does not just refer to iiNet and presumes this:

    1. That a company is obligated by law to perform a certain action that I may disagree with on a moral/social basis.

    2. I cannot realistically expect any company as an entity that is responsible for (in many cases) hundreds of jobs, millions of dollars in shareholder funds, etc. to take a stance on an issue that can land them in direct breach of law, thus risking those things, without the direct approval of all those that action puts at risk.

    This remains the role and responsibility of private citizens. It *would* be nice if more businesses took stances regarding individual rights and community involvement / corporate responsibility. iiNet has certainly done so on a multitude of different issues (especially mental health, of which I am a passionate advocate).

    I am not a lawyer and I have no “inside knowledge” on whether or not ISP’s can realistically say no. Based on my rather limited knowledge (but certainly more than the average citizen) of the Telecommunications Act, I believe that even lawyers would have a tough time stating with absolute certainty whether or not a refusal to implement a blocking list once informed that it contains illegal material forms a breach of the Act if it was bought to a court of law.

    My personal feelings on this list are this: If the list can be guaranteed to be unaltered from the form in which it is provided to ISP’s by INTERPOL, I can’t reasonably have a problem with its implementation – the guidelines are extremely strict, crystal clear and there are clear methods of appeal. This list has been maintained since 2009 I believe (that’s when INTERPOL passed the motion to create such a list), and the INTERPOL constitution is very clear that it cannot and will not interfere in other matters, such as political ones.

    From a cost/benefit analysis – the dollar cost of implementing the INTERPOL list is ridiculously small (if left unedited and just passed on to service providers.). If the benefit is also ridiculously small, it’s not like millions of dollars of resources have been diverted from “better methods”.

    However, as the list regulations clearly allow local authorities to refuse to unblock a site even after material that breaches the INTERPOL guidelines has been removed (if the content then contravenes local law), I can’t be comfortable with it given the absolute dogs breakfast of our content classification system. Giving more power to our Government is not something I’m keen to do any time soon.

    Again – personal opinion, not that of iiNet, etc. Really just wanted to clarify that my posts in no way, shape or form indicate any legal stance of iiNet or any of its position options. I genuinely don’t know what legally sound options are available to businesses (most notably Service Providers) regarding this proposal, which is why I enjoy being involved in community discussion online on this issue – and I’m very fortunate to have an employer that allows me to do so as a private citizen, despite the nature of my job in Social Media. :-)

    Matt Jones

  5. Thin end of the wedge, there is pretty much unified agreement that filters of this kind are next to useless anyway. Seriously, how many people stumble across such sites anyway?? Won’t stop people who want to access them if they are still up. I can’t help but think that this is a first step towards something bigger and far more invasive.

  6. More appropriately… how many $$$ or favours did Conroy pay you Mr Malone and you Mr Matt Jones?
    Child Porn, Child Pornographers and/or Pedophiles will still be around in 10, 20, 30 or 50 years from now. Why? Well, lets see now. How does anyone seriously expect to totally eradicate any human thoughts, feelings, persuasions, attractions or affiliations with child pornography? Where there will be a demand for child pornography, then there will be a supply. Currently, the most prevalent and insiduous child pornography is committed offline. Yes, offline, not online. A filter will stop the few undedicated child pornographers, but the majority of dedicated child pornographers will find the means and the way to access child pornography online with success.

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