Independent Reference Group Meeting Minutes

Meeting held at 46 Waring-Taylor Street, Wellington 1pm, 7 December 2011


Nic McCully

Steve O’Brien

Andrew Bowater

David Stone

Mark Harris


Nicola Atwool

1. Filter System Update

Officials presented the Quarterly Report that shows the filter is currently receiving 5.9 million requests for filtered websites per quarter.  This reflects the addition of ISPs to the system rather than an increase in activity.  A further 25 appeals have been received, all of which were rejected.

Most filtered requests (74%) originate from referring sites, with 18% originate from search engines.  A further 10% of filtered requests were for images directly requested by users.  The filter continues to produce interesting data on the use of personal electronic devices although the volume is relatively low.

2. System Maintenance

Updates to the system are scheduled for the New Year.  These will be coordinated with the client ISPs.

3. System health

Officials advised that, based on data provided from ISP clients, the filtering system has 2.2 million user addresses connected to it.  An exact number is difficult to quantify because some IPS are reluctant to disclose their market share.  David Stone agreed to assist.

Data was presented on the number of blocks by ISP.  Mark Harris was interested in the impact of the TelstraClear unlimited data weekend.  Officials stated that they are still analysing its impact. 

4. System Updates

Since the links to counselling services were added to the blocking page, they have been well used.  Follow up work will be done with the counselling services to determine whether this reflects curiosity or has lead to actual self-referrals to treatment.

5. General

Computer Generated Images

Nic McCully questioned the use of the term ‘drawings’ in the quarterly reports to describe websites containing computer generated (CGI) and hentai images.  She suggested that the term ‘drawings’ suggests hand-drawn sketches of people, where they are actually CGI images that are getting increasingly photo-realistic.  She agreed that the material currently blocked by the filtering system is objectionable.

There followed a discussion of the place of CGI and hentai images on the filtering list.

Officials noted that the scope of the Code of Practice states that it is - “to preventing access to known websites that contain publications that promote or support, or tend to promote or support, the exploitation of children, or young persons, or both, for sexual purposes.”While the Code encompasses CGI and hentai images, officials acknowledge that determining the intended age of a CGI can be difficult, therefore a conservative approach was taken and only websites that portray young children are included on the filtering list.  

Andrew Bowater and David Stone noted that hentai images are not included on the Interpol “worst of the worst” list.  They suggested that, as the inclusion of these images on the filtering list could be a focus of opposition, in the interest of maintaining public support for the filtering system, they should be removed. 

As the consideration of this issue provides an opportunity to conduct a review of the Code of Practice, officials agreed to report possible amendments to the next meeting.

Andrew Bowater advised that any change to the Code would require consultation with the client ISPs.

InternetNZ study

Steve O’Brien advised the meeting that InternetNZ had approached the Department to participate in a study on the public’s understanding a support of the filtering system.  

The meeting concluded at 2pm.


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