Independent Reference Group Meeting Minutes August 2011

Meeting held at 46 Waring-Taylor Street, Wellington 1pm, 17 August 2011

Attendees - Wellington

 Nicola Atwool

Nic McCully

Steve O’Brien

Andrew Bowater

David Stone


Mark Harris

1. Filtering system update

Officials present the contents of the IRG Briefing Document August 2011 on the operation of the filtering system and associated DIA activity.  

The IRG was advised that new ISPs and network providers would be connecting to the filter shortly, and that when this is completed they would be added to the list on the Department’s website.

While the number of blocks now totals more than 9.7 million, there has been a slight decrease in traffic in the last quarter, which the Department will investigate to see if this relates to a change of behaviour or to seasonal variations.  

There has been an increase in the number of appeals lodged.  While none of these appeals resulted in a site being removed from the filter, the reasons given by appellants are revealing as to their motivation.

Nicola Atwool stated that she had recently been to Pitcairn Island and asked whether that island is connected to the filtering system.  Officials were able to advise that the issue had been discussed with the British High Commission.  

2. Personal Electronic Devices

Officials have noted a significant increase in the number and type of personal electronic devices that has been blocked by the filter.  These account for approximately 6% of requests that are blocked but that percentage is likely to increase.

3. System maintenance

A small change to the system was made to facilitate a new provider joining.  Officials noted that when this provider comes on board the system will be filtering approximately 1.7 million ISP clients.  

4. System Updates

Officials advised that a change had been made to the blocking page to provide advice and links to counselling services.  Records indicate that the links are well used.  The Department will follow up with the counselling service providers to see whether the change to the blocking page has lead to an increase in self-referrals to treatment.  

Andrew Bowater asked whether the Censorship Compliance Unit can identify whether a person who is being prosecuted has been blocked by the filtering system.  Using the hash value of the filtering system’s blocking page, Inspectors of Publications now check seized computers to see if it has been blocked by the filtering system.

The Department has yet to come across an offender that has been blocked by the filter.

5. General

The Group was advised that telecommunications providers in Australia are moving ahead with the voluntary implementation of filtering technologies.  While this will not be a centralised system, the telecommunications providers will be using the Interpol ‘worst sites’ list as the basis of their blocking.  Officials will keep the Group up-to-date with development in Australia.

Referring to the number of Hentai and computer generated image (CGI) sites on the filter list (32) officials noted that CGI images are getting more photorealistic.  Many of these images are generated in jurisdiction where child pornography laws require that an image be of an identifiable child before there is a criminal offence.

Nic McCully observed that the OFLC is seeing more written material, which staff at the OFLC tend to find more disturbing. 

The meeting concluded at 1.50pm.


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