Independent Reference Group Meeting Minutes March 2011

Meeting held at 46 Waring-Taylor Street, Wellington 10.30am, 16 March 2011


Nicola Atwool

Mark Harris

Alarna Sharratt

Steve O’Brien

Andrew Bowater

David Stone

1. Filtering system update

Introductions were made and new members of the Group welcomed. Officials then presented the contents of the IRG 4th Quarter Briefing Document on the operation of the filtering system and associated DIA activity.  

Members of the Group discussed the traffic data for the filtering system and noted that Telecom joined the filter fully in the middle of December 2010. It is understood that IHUG/Vodafone is still committed to joining the filter, but recent changes in personnel there had delayed the process.  

Mark Harris expressed concern that the report identified that 4.3 million requests had been blocked by the filtering system. He considered that figure, while technically correct, was misleading and could easily be picked up by the media. Officials agreed that a request for a gallery webpage that contained links to a number of blocked sites would count as multiple requests. Additional information would be added to the publicly released version of the report to provide more explanation of the figures. 

Nicola Atwool suggested that the large number of attempts to access objectionable material is a sign of the compulsive nature of the behaviour. Steve O’Brien noted that the Censorship Compliance Unit considered that there were a number of factors involved, including compulsive collecting and teenagers testing boundaries.  

Advice on parental controls and anti-virus software is now available on the DIA website, together with the names of the participating ISPs. The intention is not to promote any particular product or option, but to provide the public with additional information about how they can protect themselves.  

2. International developments

Prior to the implementation of a compulsory filtering system in Australia in 2013, some ISPs have shown an interest in the Department’s experience with the DCEFS and views on other technologies. Information has also been provided to Interpol and a number of countries on the New Zealand approach to blocking pages and appeal processes.

3. Reporting to ISPs

Officials noted that more detailed reports on traffic through the filtering system is being distributed to each ISP. ISPs use this data to assist in the management of their systems, including the operation of their internal filtering systems that they offer customers.

4. Filter List

The Group was asked to look at a child model website in Russia. The young girl featured on the site appears in a series of 43 photo galleries that can be viewed for free. Apparently the series started when the girl was approximately 9 years old, with the latest photographs showing her at about 12 years old. The members’ part of the site contains more explicit photos and the ability to make specific requests. While the front page of the website is not objectionable, the Group agreed that the whole purpose of the site is to exploit a child and the site can be added to the filter list.

5. Compliance activity

Data from the filtering system has identified that, as well as personal computers, a range of mobile and internet-capable devices are used to access child sexual abuse images. This is valuable information when officials are applying for and exercising search warrants.

Officials demonstrated software that had been developed in-house for the easy identification of IP addresses trading child sexual abuse images over peer-to-peer networks. This tool has been translated and made available to enforcement agencies in over 20 countries. This software, together with the filtering system, provides insights into the scale of the issue in New Zealand.

6. System stability

Officials noted that the system is currently filtering approximately 1.2 million ISP clients and the demands on the DCEFS is currently running at approximately 1% of its capacity. Recently a test on the robustness of the system was successfully conducted with one ISP.

7. Membership

The meeting was advised that Duncan Campbell had recently resigned from the Group after a changed of employment. It has been suggested that Jonathan Cotton, another editor at NetGuide, would be available to fill the vacant position on the Group.


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