Web filter will focus solely on child sex abuse images
16 July 2009
A filtering system to block websites that host child sexual abuse images will be available voluntarily to New Zealand internet service providers (ISPs) within a couple of months, Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary, Keith Manch, said today.
The Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System, funded with $150,000 in this year’s Budget, will be operated by the Department in partnership with ISPs, and will focus solely on websites offering clearly objectionable images of child sexual abuse, which is a serious offence for anyone in New Zealand to access.
“The filtering system is a response to community expectations that the government and ISPs should do more to provide a safe internet environment,” Keith Manch said. “It is not a silver bullet that will prevent everyone from accessing any sites that might contain images of child sexual abuse, but it is another important tool in the Department’s operations to fight the sexual abuse of children.
“The distribution and viewing of images of this abuse – wrongly called child pornography – is trading in human misery. It is the result of real children being sexually abused and exploited in the worst possible way. Each time anyone anywhere in the world accesses one of those images, the child depicted is victimised again.”
Keith Manch said the filtering list will not cover e-mail, file sharing or borderline material.
“Anyone trying to access websites offering child sex abuse pictures will receive a screen message saying the site has been blocked because it is illegal,” Keith Manch said. “The Department is developing a code of practice, which will be publicly available, to provide assurance that only website pages containing images of child sexual abuse will be filtered and the privacy of ISP customers is maintained. An independent reference group will also be established to oversee the operation. Anyone who feels that their access to a website has been wrongly blocked will be able to ask anonymously for the filter to be checked. The filter will not be used for law enforcement.“
The filter was successfully trialled with Ihug, TelstraClear, Watchdog and Maxnet over two years. It filters out over 7000 objectionable websites with no noticeable impact on internet performance.
"Internet NZ has requested further information which the Department will provide. The society will be able to review the hardware setup to ensure it complies with industry best practice.
“Joining the filtering programme is voluntary and if any ISP subsequently is unhappy it will be able to withdraw. This is another way of ensuring that the Department gets the filter right.”
The Department has entered into a partnership with ECPAT New Zealand, part of a global organisation the purpose of which is the elimination of child prostitution and pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
“ECPAT is operating a hotline through its website (www.childalert.org.nz) so that members of the public can report suspect sites, not already identified by the Department.”
The Department will not disclose the 7000 objectionable websites which have been compiled through its own forensic work and with its international law enforcement partners.
“If we did, inevitably some people would visit them in the interim, effectively facilitating further offending and making the Department party to the further exploitation of children,” Keith Manch said.
Keith Manch, Deputy Secretary, Department of Internal Affairs - Ph 04 495 9329; cell 021 227 6363
Trevor Henry, communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs - Ph 04 495 7211; cell 0275 843 679