Should You Participate In Net Filter Trials?

Should You Participate In Net Filter Trials?
Should You Participate In Net Filter Trials?Now that Optus has joined the government’s controversial mandatory Web filtering trial , a lot more people are potentially going to be included than with the original list of small ISPs. But with Optus offering an opt-out option, the question arises: should you say yes or no if you get asked to participate?

Nick at our sibling site Gizmodo is unequivocally in the no camp:

Despite Optus stating that they want to play a proactive role in the trial to measure the impact of filtering technologies, the truth is that filtering trials have already been done before and told us that these technologies DO have a negative impact on performance. Not to mention the simple fact that, as any real anti-virus software company will tell you, filtering through a blacklist isn’t an effective way to stop access to internet nasties.

There’s not a word in there I disagree with, but the fact remains: if the government had taken notice of those prior studies, there wouldn’t be a trial running right now. As such, it might make more sense to ensure that the testing is on as large a volume of users as possible, in order to show just how nasty the whole thing gets as it attempts to scale up.

Bottom line: it’s not a clear-cut decision, even though the concept it’s testing is manifestly stupid. What do you think? Share your views in the comments.


  • Will people accepting the trail get interpreted by the government as thinking the filter is a good idea?

    Also, would the customers that accept get a chance to report back about their negative experience with the filter.

    I still dont understand how a manditory filter was ever a viable option and why expert opinions are continualy disregarded, yet the gov continues to waste money and time on this crap.

  • And furthermore, will Optus (and Virgin) 3G / mobile internet users be included in the trial and, if so, will they also get the chance to opt out?

  • At the risk of sounding like Cory Doctorow, The idea of filtering the net is as much about protecting what little freedom of speech and expression we have in Australia. If the Federal Government wish to stamp out child pornography etc, then perhaps putting more money into the police and justice systems would be a better way to go about it.

  • I don’t buy the idea of taking part just to show how bad the filter is. If you do take part, you can certainly raise your concerns about how it affected performance. I would, however, be very surprised if people volunteered to be put behind the filter, then showed the uselessness of the system by gaining access to a variety of banned sites, then went to the government and said, “Look at me, your filter doesn’t work. I got around it to all these banned sites, and I’ve got eh logs to prove it.” I’m sure that’d go down really well.


  • Even if the money spent is a gazillion times what they think it will take to censor even a little bit of the dataflow, ASIO will get to log it, so therefore it’s worth it.

    If it takes our entire foreign debt to save someone’s life (or more realistically, a few people’s sensibilities), it’s worth it.

    How can you argue with idealogues like ASIO or the Parents against Pirates (supported by the MPAA) or Parents against anything dangerous to kids (supported by every vote-hungry pollie)?

    All kids have a right to grow up mollycoddled and soft if their parents want them to be that way. The next generation(s) will be the real victims of decisions like this.

  • I’m firmly in the “No” camp. The Federal government will almost certainly use levels of trial participation as way to try and justify support for this scheme.

    If an overwhelming majority of users “opted-out” of the trail, this should send yet another message that the Australian public is in overwhelming opposition to the filter, irrespective of it’s potential effects on internet speed or reliability. (Although it may be naive to think that the average Optus customer would take a purely ideological stance on internet censorship).

    As Dave notes above, it’s not like those opting in will actually be able to safely test the filter for the purposes it is designed, without risking a knock on the door from the Australian Federal Police.

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