Conroy's filter plan unworkable, says Google Australia
March 23, 2010 1:07PM
FRESH from halting censorship of search results in China, internet giant Google says Australia's mandatory ISP filter is both unworkable and unwanted by parents.
The federal government plan will force ISPs to filter web pages that contain refused classification-rated content based on a government blacklist.
Beijing’s man on the ground in Australia,Australian PM “Kevin 07” Rudd aka,Lu Kewen
Labor senator Kate Lundy, Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam and a host of privacy advocates and child groups say they prefer an opt-in version of the filter.
Google was one of 174 submissions received by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, which had called for public feedback on transparency and accountability measures for the refused-classification list.
Google took the opportunity to comment on the broader proposal for mandatory filtering, saying parents would rather see more effort into cyber safety education than censorship.
"In considering the government's plans for mandatory ISP level filtering we have listened to many views, but most importantly those of our users," its 24-page submission says.
"We have talked directly with parents around Australia about their views on ISP level filtering. The strong view from parents was that the government's proposal goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around what information they and their children can access.
"The importance of a better effort to educate parents and children about online safety was repeatedly highlighted as the area where most effort should be focused."
The filtering scheme, championed by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, is mainly aimed at blocking child pornography web pages but Google argues that the RC category is too wide.
"RC is a broad category of content that includes not just child sexual abuse material but also socially and politically controversial material - for example, educational content on safer drug use - as well as the grey realms of material instructing in any crime, including politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia.
"Decisions in relation to instructional, educational, scientific or current affairs video material will often be much more complex than in relation to entertainment 'films'," Google said.
"Scenes of war or terrorist activity may 'offensively depict real violence' and rate RC when the video is not in any way 'gratuitous violence' or posted for entertainment."
The net behemoth says website operators should be offered a proper explanation before their web pages gets filtered.
Google believes the filter would slow user access speeds as it would have to be implemented by hundreds of ISPs and millions of internet users who access billions of web pages.
The live trial last year of a handful of ISPs didn't follow the department's own testing technical framework, Google said, and omitted key aspects such as testing a blacklist of up to 10,000 URLs and piloting new technologies like IPv6.
There wasn't a representative cross-section of ISPs that took part in the pilot and no costs of filtering were gathered.
"There is a risk that these factors (not covered in the trials) limit the usefulness of the trials," it said.
Popular video-sharing website YouTube, which Google owns, has had its fair share of bad press with footage of violence or bullying aired for all and sundry. But Google says all videos must comply with its guidelines and YouTube abides by local laws.
Any suggestion that owners of high-traffic websites would voluntarily agree to remove or block content deemed RC-rated was a folly.
When Google receives a legal request, such as a court order to remove material, it would investigate the legitimacy of the request but not automatically comply.
"Beyond these clearly defined parameters, we will not remove material from YouTube."
It believes that under the filtering regime, the likelihood of material on high volume sites being assessed as RC and appearing on the blacklist would be higher.
“It’s all about getting the balance right”
The company reiterated views made in December that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide, and that the government's plan was heavy-handed.
According to Google, moving to a mandatory ISP level filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond child sexual abuse material would raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information.
Google searches in China blocked despite end of censorship
March 23, 2010 5:27PM
CHINESE access to websites covering sensitive topics such as Tibet have remained blocked despite an announcement from Google that it had stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine.
The web giant announced yesterday that it had stopped filtering results on China-based Google.cn and was redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong - effectively closing down the mainland site.
Searches conducted today of subjects like "Falun Gong" and "June 4" - referring to the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in 1989 - from mainland computers ended with the message: "Internet Explorer cannot display the web page".
Even when a list of results came up for other sensitive key words such as "Tibet riot" and "Amnesty International" not all of the sites could be opened and the response "cannot display the website" again was seen.
Websites of organisations deemed by China's ruling Communist Party to be hostile to the nation - such as the Epoch Times, Peacehall and groups supporting the Tiananmen Democracy Movement - were all still blocked.
And popular websites such as Google's video-sharing service YouTube also continued to be inaccessible from Beijing despite the re-routing through Google.com.hk.
The same searches on Google.com.hk from computers in Hong Kong displayed full results - suggesting that China was itself using its "Great Firewall" of web censorship to keep users from having unfettered internet access.
Google's action came a little more than two months after the internet giant said it had been the victim of cyberattacks originating from China.
"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services - Google Search, Google News, and Google Images - on Google.cn," Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a post on the company's official blog.
"Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong."
China quickly denounced the move, saying Google had "violated its written promise" and was "totally wrong" to stop censoring its Chinese language search engine and to blame Beijing for alleged hacker attacks.