The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation

 

Independent Reference Group Video Conference Meeting October 2010

Meeting held at 46 Waring-Taylor Street, Wellington and 361 Great North Road, Henderson, Auckland 1pm, 15 October 2010

Attendees - Wellington

 Audrey Barber (for Nic Johnstone)

Mark Harris

Nic McCully

Steve O’Brien

Attendees - Auckland

Andrew Bowater

Duncan Campbell

David Stone

1. Filtering system update

Members of the Group were welcomed and the IRG 2nd Quarter Briefing Document, on the operation of the filtering system and associated DIA activity, was tabled for their information.  

Due to officials’ recent attendance at an Interpol conference in Lyon and the inclusion in the report of the URLs of websites on the filtering list, it was not possible to have the report to members before the meeting.  In future, reports would be prepared without identifying particular websites and sent to members prior to the meeting.  

At present Maxnet, Watchdog, TelstraClear, Airnet and Xtreme are committed to the filtering system.  Telecom will be publicly announcing its connection to the system within the next few weeks.  Discussions are continuing with Ihug/Vodafone, Woosh, Orcon and 2degrees.  Design changes are being investigated to adapt the system for performance on mobile devices. 

Due to a hardware problem, officials swapped out some servers.  While this was unbudgeted expenditure, technically the change over was well implemented.

2. International developments

The Group was advised that two officials had recently attended an Interpol meeting in Lyon on the subject of child sexual abuse images.  Interpol supports the introduction of access blocking as a preventative tool for member countries.  A “Worst of” list is being prepared of the worst child sexual abuse websites, together with a sample “Stop page”.  New Zealand has been appointed to the committee that is compiling and maintaining the “Worst of” list.

The Group noted that following the elections in Australia, the implementation of a compulsory filter is back on the agenda with a filter list that addresses child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.  Duncan Campbell noted that the inclusion of websites supporting terrorism on the Australian filter list could be subject to political interference.

3. Reporting to ISPs

Officials noted that the data obtained from the filter can demonstrate patterns of requests for blocked websites that may be of interest to ISPs.  This information includes the 50 most blocked sites and the time of day that the filter is most active but cannot identify particular ISPs.  The Group agreed that the DIA should draw any such patterns to the attention of ISPs.  

4. Filter List

The Group was advised that the filter list comprises approximately 500 websites, with several thousand more yet to be examined.  Aware that the inclusion of drawings or computer generated images of child sexual abuse may be considered controversial, officials advised that there are 30 such websites on the filtering list.  Nic McCully advised that officials had submitted computer generated images for classification and she considered that only objectionable images were being filtered.  It was noted that images of popular television cartoon characters engaged in sexual acts, which are quite common on the internet, would not be added to the filter list.

Members of the Group were invited to identify any website that they wish to review.  They declined to do so at this stage.

Mark Harris suggested that abuse victims may consider that blocking websites may be an example of society hiding their abuse away.  Victims may consider it better that the abuse be exposed.  Officials noted that some victims of abuse have explained that the knowledge that photos of them were circulating on the internet years after their original abuse is something they live with.  DIA considers that it has a responsibility to ensure that, as much as is possible, these people are not further victimised.

5. Compliance activity

It was noted that critics of the website filtering system often state the DIA would be better to spend its money pursuing actual offenders.  Officials agreed that these statements demonstrate that the public is not fully aware of the enforcement action taken by the DIA and information on the number of search warrant and prosecutions undertaken should be made available on the department’s website.

6. System stability

In response to questions from the Group, it was explained that the system has the capacity to cope with all New Zealand ISPs joining.  The system has undergone thorough testing and has emergency backups.  If the system was to fail, this would have no impact on users’ Internet experience other than meaning that they would have access to websites on the filter list.

7. Next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting be held prior to the end of the year.

The meeting concluded at 2.10pm.

 

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