Independent Reference Group Meeting Minutes April 2012

Meeting held at 46 Waring-Taylor Street, Wellington 11.00am, 24 April 2012


Nic McCully

Steve O’Brien

Audrey Barber

David Stone

Mark Harris


Andrew Bowater

1. Filter System Update

Officials presented the Quarterly Report that shows a drop in the number of filtered requests.  The reason for this is unclear but could relate to users migrating to other as yet unknown sites.  Officials will review how data is recorded to ensure that the downturn is not the result of an error.

The most notable change to the filter system has been the addition of 2 Degrees.  Officials will commence discussion with the next ISP about joining.  

Twenty-two appeals had been considered in the quarter and the websites confirmed as containing child sexual abuse material.

2. System Maintenance

Further updates to the system are scheduled.  Mark Harris asked whether preparation had been made for the introduction of IPV6 and was assured that these are underway.

3. System Health

Officials advised that, based on data provided from ISP clients, the filtering system has 2.5 million user addresses connected to it.  It was noted that the correct number of websites containing only drawings is 82.

Mark Harris was interested in why no sites had been added to the filter list in the last quarter.  Officials noted that, while the monthly review of the list had taken place as per the Code of Practice, no websites were identified for addition to the list.  An increase in websites acting as gateways or referrals to objectionable material had been observed but where these have been text based (i.e. no images) they had not been added to the filter list.  New websites identified in the Interpol “worst-of- the-worst” list did not meet the criteria for inclusion.

David Stone asked why the number of filtered sites had dropped by 168 for the quarter.  It was explained that the number of websites on the filter list will fluctuate from time-to-time as sites shut down and move.  New sites are only added to the list when they are located.  It is expected that the list in the next quarter will be higher.  

4. General

Code of Practice

Officials circulated a draft Code of Practice for discussion that included changes to the Explanatory Statement that came out of the discussion at the previous meeting.  Other changes reflect how the filtering system has evolved over the first two years of its operation.

Mark Harris reminded the meeting that he had agreed to join the Independent Reference Group because he doesn’t think filtering systems work.  He stated that, if the purpose of the filter was to protect children from harm then it should only block images of actual children being sexually abused.  Mark Harris stated that the inclusion of text would make him particularly uncomfortable.

There followed a discussion of the purpose of the filtering system.  Other members of the IRG stated that they did not see the filter system as narrowly as Mark Harris.  They thought the filter protected the public good by contributing to a safer internet experience, preventing curious people from developing into fully-fledged offenders and putting a stake in the ground about the exploitation of children for sexual purposes.  

Officials reminded the meeting that the scope of the filtering system, as defined in the Code of Practice had been discussed at the previous meeting.  The Code states that the focus will be on known websites that contain child sexual abuse images, but it also states that websites that promote or support the exploitation of children for sexual purposes are filtered.  Websites that contain text only are not filtered.

Nic McCully questioned whether the Code should refer to the section of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act under which publications are judged objectionable, as material blocked by the filter is much narrower.  She suggested that the Code contain a clear definition of child sexual abuse images for the purposes of the filter.  

Officials noted that the term ”child sexual abuse images” has replaced the former term “child pornography”, as the latter term could carry connotations of consent.  However, “child sexual abuse images” could be a source of confusion and it was agreed that officials should prepare a clear definition for discussion. 

InternetNZ study

Steve O’Brien advised the meeting that InternetNZ had not taken the Department’s advice when compiling its survey.  Mark Harris said that, while he was unimpressed with the quality of the questions asked in the survey and the analysis of the responses, the survey did suggest the public don’t understand the filtering system. 

The meeting concluded at 12 noon.


*You need Adobe Reader installed on your computer to view these files. If you are unable to open the files we recommend you get the latest version of Adobe Reader. You can download and install Acrobat Reader for free from the Adobe website.